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Solvents 101

We don’t like to be dramatic, but when it comes to solvents, what you don’t know can literally kill you.

Here’s just one example:
The vacuum (air pressure) in your system dramatically alters the boiling point of certain solvents, and small changes or inconsistencies can make differences that almost seem to defy common sense. Did you know there are solvents that, under certain conditions, can boil at a mere 15 degrees F, or well below the freezing point of water? It’s true, look up the boiling point of ethanol under vacuum.

We’re hearing about a disturbing trend in the industry where processors are altering solvents and mixtures to address concerns such as taxes, extraction process efficiency, and solvent recovery. As the industry grows, the internet becomes rife with inexpert advice and supposition.

Experimenting on your own can have real consequences including fire code violations, personal injury, and property damage. Any time the solvent mixture is changed, the system requires a complete re-permitting effort (see 2018 International Fire Code Ch 38).

Fortunately, these pitfalls are easily avoided when you hire a professional engineering firm to design a safe, efficient, and cost-effective set up. You’ll save money in the long run by making the right choice the first time. As we like to say, “Good Design Saves Time.”

Here’s a summary of common solvents and some considerations with each.

  Ethanol Butane CO2
Risk Flammable Explosive Displaces oxygen
Pressure Atmospheric Medium Very high
Toxicity Food grade Toxic Inert gas (non-reactive)
Equipment cost Low to moderate Moderate High
Classification C1D2 C1D1 Unclassified
Ease of permitting Bad Bad Not quite as bad
Construction cost $$$ $$$ $$

Don’t know where to begin? It’s easy. With over 75 completed extraction facilities designed, permitted, and in operation, we have the experience to help you make the right decisions. Give us a call and find out how we can move you to production and profitability quickly – and safely.

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