The safety factor and other differences between CO2 and hydrocarbon extractors

If you haven’t heard, the National Fire Protection Association is working towards adding the cannabis industry to its 2018 edition of the NFPA Fire Codes. These codes, which are expected to be incorporated into state and municipal fire codes across the country, will focus particularly on cannabis extraction businesses due to the risks involved with extraction equipment. Many systems use complicated equipment and/or flammable hydrocarbons (butane, propane or ethanol). Unfortunately, there has been a surge in the number of explosions and fires involving the production of butane hash oil (BHO).


To safeguard against fires and other accidents involving hazardous chemicals, hydrocarbon processors are often required to upgrade their facilities in order to meet regulations. This can be expensive. Compliance with NFPA regulations of a Class 1, Division 1 compliant room can cost $20,000 to $100,000, depending on the size of the room.


CO2 extraction systems are unquestionably safer and don’t require the additional facility costs; however, that’s not to say that CO2 is always the better option over hydrocarbon extractors. One method isn’t necessarily better. (Apeks manufactures both CO2 (fully automated) and ethanol extractors). What’s important to understand is the impact different extraction methods have on the quality of extractions, size of yields, production, and legal and safety requirements. Listed here are some of the differences:



  • Nonflammable. Does not require explosion-proof facility
  • Nontoxic. Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) by the FDA for use w/food products
  • Pure. No residual solvents in extractions
  • Cold. Extractions can be done at lower/room temperature (cold separation) to protect oils from thermal degradation
  • Solvent free. Does not require additional distillation/purging
  • “Tunable.” Solvency power can be adjusted
  • Recyclable. 95% of CO2 recovery after an extraction run
  • Environmentally friendly and sustainable                                                                         
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