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What is the extraction of hydrocarbons and what cannabis products do they produce?



With the advent of the extract market, there is a greater emphasis on the way these products are made. Over the past few years, solvent extraction methods have rapidly progressed, with common resolvers like ethanol, carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons — organic compounds containing only hydrogen and carbon atoms — usually butane and propane in cannabis. If you used vape oil, foods or any number of items that contain extracts, you might well have tasted the hydrocarbon extraction fruit.

While they do not sound like chemicals you want to eat, hydrocarbons have used in food extraction, for example, in the manufacture of flavours and dyes, for over five decades. More recently, cannabis extracts with different profiles are used to manufacture compounds like butane and propane. The pureness and strength of hydrocarbon extracts vary greatly, but THC extracts are rich in up to 90% of the primary cannabinoids of the plant.

Hydrocarbon extracts can be safe when carried out correctly to mitigate production risks and produce a product that is fit for consumption. Here we discuss the specifics of the processes of mining hydrocarbons, including their advantages and disadvantages, and also which are developed in this way.

Cannabis products made using hydrocarbon extraction.

Extracts of hydrocarbons may be produced in various forms, including oil, glass, break, wax and hash. Often these extracts are synonymous with butane hash oil (BHO), which is heated and inhaled through a method called dabbing. Hydrocarbon extracts are therefore suitable for use in many other forms of items, including edibles, vapour cartridges, capsules and topics (including transdermal patches).

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For high-quality extracts, you still have to start with a quality product. For instance, nug runs, concentrated in cannabis flora, are considered of higher quality than trim runs. Also, the extraction process used will decide the profile and the consistency of the finished product, including all finishing steps.

What is hydrocarbon extraction?

Ethanol Extraction

The extraction of hydrocarbons typically includes butane as the primary solvent, but there may be other hydrocarbons or a combination of two or more. The hydrocarbon dissolves beneficial compounds found in plants in conjunction with cannabis plants.

Butane is an ideal solvent for extraction of cannabis, with a low boiling point of 30.2 ° F (-1 ° C) and is used as liquified gas for extraction. This prevents exposure to the heat of temperature-sensitive terpenes and other sensitive components.

The propane boiling point at -43.6 ° F (-42 ° C) is even lower than butane. It is common to see a mixture of the two. Propane can offer advantages by removing additional desired compounds from the plant, such as terpenes. It also makes it possible to purge the remaining solvent more efficiently.

These are the general steps for the extraction of hydrocarbons: 

  • cold, liquified butane (or hydrocarbon mixture) for the cleaning of the plant material, cannabinoid dissolving (such as THC and CBD) and terpenes (providing aroma and flavour), often with lipids and waxes.
  • The resulting solution can be optimized according to the final product by a variety of methods. For instance, centrifugation can be used to remove lipids and terpenes and can be removed by wintering. Other specific steps of refinement are dewaxing and decarboxylation.
  • The resulting solution will be passed through a collection chamber after refining, to extract much of the residual solvent. The butane is also transported back to the beginning of the cycle.
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Finally, the concentrated solution is purged further to eliminate any remaining hydrocarbons. The method depends on the final product but can be dried in a vacuum oven or whipped.

Although hydrocarbon extractions can be done theoretically anywhere, the hazards of butane gas can often be catastrophic. Legal extract manufacturers operate in compliant conditions and use specially built equipment. Do not try at home. Do not try.

The benefits and drawbacks of hydrocarbon extraction

The only technique out there is not hydrocarbon extraction, and other extraction methods may be preferable, depending on the desired performance. The key benefits and drawbacks of hydrocarbon mining are here:


You can keep the strain authentic. Each strain has a different compound profile, which can be overlooked by other extraction methods. The extraction of hydrocarbons will preserve the delicate structure of the plant so that the original mixture of cannabinoids and terpenes remains in the final product.

It is flexible. There are a variety of extract types that can be produced by extracting hydrocarbon because the butane and propane levels can be modified to create the desired profile. Depending on the strain and the production process, goods can be sold at a wide variety of prices.

You may use trimming. Due to the nature of hydrocarbon mining, the less desirable parts of the plant can be used. For instance, cannabis trimming could otherwise be discarded as waste. These loose leaves, however, still have plenty of cannabinoid-rich resin. These and other components can be extracted by extracting hydrocarbon from so-called trim lines.

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Extractions can be dangerous. Hydrocarbon extraction methods can be hazardous if not properly conducted. Butane and propane are highly flammable and must meet strict standards before they are considered safe.

Hazardous goods can be made. Similarly, the consumer could be at risk if hydrocarbon extraction is not conducted correctly. Many amateur products, for example, may use low-quality solvents containing unknown pollutants. They can also fail to remove solvents at the end of the extraction process and sell residual solvent products well beyond what is considered safe. This is one of the reasons why it is essential only to buy laboratory tested goods, so you know exactly what you get.