Houdini Lab

Developing Alternatives to Hydrocarbons

The extraction of cannabinoids is a time-consuming and often difficult process. A variety of parameters, including purity level, safety, and cost-efficiency, must be considered while selecting an extraction technique, depending on the application.

As the globe moves toward a green revolution, industries are increasingly concentrating on the development of more environmentally friendly practices. Most people believe that sourcing better purity substances and employing environmentally friendly processes are at the top of their to-do list.


Now, among the many commercial extraction technologies available, some have unquestionably stood out for their great efficiency. Here are a few examples. These procedures, on the other hand, have a number of disadvantages, not to mention the fact that they are out of step with current environmental trends.



The cannabinoid produced by this procedure is unquestionably of the highest quality. Over time, as was to be expected, the solvent-based extraction process has undergone significant changes, with repeated refinements aiming at increasing efficiency while simultaneously decreasing risks and costs.


Some of these adjustments, as well as their comparative advantages and disadvantages in terms of hydrocarbon extraction, are listed below. Let us have a look at the hydrocarbon production process.


The usage of hydrocarbons in cannabis extraction is unquestionably not the most environmentally friendly method of extraction available. However, because of its high efficiency, many manufacturing firms are willing to overlook the dangers. Unfortunately, growers are generally more concerned with yield quantity than they are with the carbon footprint or the influence on public health safety of their crops.


It is a proven fact that hydrocarbons are preferred by the food manufacturing industry for extracting and generating flavorings. However, when performed improperly, the process poses a substantial risk of releasing high levels of harmful compounds into the environment. So, what are some of the alternatives to hydrocarbons that we can use instead?



This process is, by far, the most effective cannabis extraction method currently available. ‘Supercritical fluid extraction (SFE)’ is the term used to describe a technique that is commonly employed in the extraction of vital foods and bioactive substances from their natural environments.


CO2 extraction is becoming increasingly popular as the cannabis extract business continues to grow. Could this be owing to the fact that it has such a little carbon footprint? Let’s have a look and see.


Cons: Unlike other inorganic solvents, carbon dioxide is affordable, readily available and does not pose a threat to human health. In addition, the approach has a low hazard risk due to the solvent’s chemical inertness and non-flammability, which makes it simple to scale up and offer great selectivity.


The chemically inert substance also allows for the preservation of the molecular composition of the final analyte, which is advantageous. Due to the fact that CO2 is a gas at room temperature, the solvent is an efficient extractant and leaves only a little amount of residue after extraction. When it comes to environmental safety, CO2, being a naturally occurring chemical that circulates freely in nature, is recyclable and has a low carbon impact.


Disadvantages: The biggest downside of this approach is the high initial and ongoing investment costs associated with equipment procurement and operation. Furthermore, because it is a nonpolar solvent with a quadrupole moment, it can only dissolve some polar compounds when the process parameters are enhanced, posing a danger to thermally labile substances. Co-solvents, on the other hand, have the effect of reducing this effect since they increase the polarity and illusive strength of the supercritical fluid.


When compared to hydrocarbons, the following are the following:


The supercritical CO2 approach is not only more efficient, but it is also safer for both the user and the environment. Unlike other hydrocarbon systems, CO2 extraction, however, necessitates the use of the most expensive machinery. However, when it comes to overall cost, CO2 is more cost-effective than combustible gas because it necessitates fewer safety precautions and equipment than its flammable cousin.



It is critical to understand that steam distillation is not the same as PHWE in many ways. Despite the fact that they are both employed in the extraction of essential oils and are considered to be quite safe for human consumption, they are functionally distinct. Steam distillation, when compared to pressurized hot water extraction, is less effective at extracting and preserving the desired compounds.


Pressurized hot water extraction is a non-toxic, environmentally friendly way of generating high-quality cannabis extracts with minimal effort and utilizing only water. The cannabinoid is separated from the biomass by the use of superheated water in this procedure. PHWE also provides its operators with a choice of two different extraction methods, depending on the quality of the desired extract and the available budget. These systems are static pressure hot water extraction systems and dynamic pressure hot water extraction systems.


Water is the most inexpensive and readily available extractant since it is “a gift from nature.” It also has the advantage of being the most readily available. Aside from being ecologically friendly and largely hazard-free, the total technique is also highly purifying, with the resultant analyte usually being of high purity.


The PHWE process is highly scaleable, which is a feature that is advantageous to growing organizations. Furthermore, the elevated temperature levels allow for the formation of both polar and nonpolar molecules.


Disadvantages: Although this procedure is easily scaled up, the high temperatures required provide a danger of thermal damage to the phytocannabinoids involved. The temperature factor used in this procedure also has the effect of decreasing the selectivity of the process, which results in the solubilization of non-target components.


If we look at it in terms of hydrocarbons,


On the basis of the operator’s budget and desired quality, PHWE provides two possibilities. The approach is more environmentally friendly than the hydrocarbon extraction method and produces extracts with lower levels of toxicity than the hydrocarbon extraction method. In addition, PHWE is non-flammable and has a limited number of operating protocols.



Rosin press extraction, in contrast to the previously stated methods, is a solventless procedure that depends on heat and pressure to extract the component from the stock. As a result of its simplicity and low cost, this practice has gained widespread acceptance over the years.


Consider rosin presses. There are two sorts available based on their mode of operation: hydraulic and pneumatic. Hydraulic cylinders are the more common type. The hydraulic press generates pressure by the use of compressed fluids, whereas the pneumatic press generates pressure through the use of air. However, there is a great deal more to this strategy, and it is a topic for another discussion.


What distinguishes this procedure from the others is as follows: Is there any benefit to relying exclusively on heat and pressure instead of other methods? What, if any, negative aspects have been related with this procedure?


Because the Rosin press extraction is a solventless method, as previously stated, there is little chance of producing final analytes that contain impurities or residual solvents. In addition, the procedure is simple to implement and does not necessitate the use of heavy machinery. In terms of extraction time, this approach is quick and virtually instantaneous, requiring only a few minutes.


Disadvantages: Excessive heat can alter the chemical makeup of the final analyte. As a result, extreme caution must be exercised throughout the process in order to prevent generating inefficient solutions. Furthermore, a normal rosin press machine that employs the appropriate amount of pressure while producing the least amount of heat is capable of being used to achieve this goal.


If we look at it in terms of hydrocarbons,


The rosin press, as opposed to hydrocarbon extraction, which is a solvent-based procedure, poses a reduced toxicity risk and produces more concentrated extracts. It is more dangerous to use the hydrocarbon extraction technique than it is to use the rosin press because of the solvent’s flammability. Consequently, it necessitates a higher level of technical expertise and safety procedures. According to environmental safety requirements, the rosin press process is more environmentally friendly than hydrocarbons.


Environmentally friendly alternatives to conventional methods of extracting cannabis are not restricted to these few examples. This raises the question, “Why do we continue to rely on chemicals when there are safer alternatives?” What is the solution? Many of the disadvantages of these alternatives outweigh the health benefits they provide.


Despite the fact that manufacturing businesses are in need of high-quality yields, they are also in need of high-quantity yields. After all, what’s the point of producing if you’re not going to make any money? So, I would suggest that, while we wait for better options, we should pursue the development of these environmentally beneficial approaches.