FULLY AUTOMATED, CLOSED-LOOP CO2 BOTANICAL OIL EXTRACTION SYSTEMS
Founded in 2001, Apeks Supercritical manufactures fully automated CO2 extraction systems, designed to extract oil from cannabis and other botanicals. Apeks systems use subcritical and supercritical CO2, a highly efficient and versatile solvent, which extracts oil as it passes through the plant material.
The extraction process begins with the system pumping CO2 into the extraction vessel containing the plant material where the CO2 converts from a gas into a liquid to extract the oil. After extraction, the oil and liquid CO2 flow to the separator vessel via an orifice which causes a decompression. This decompression converts the liquid CO2 back to gas, and the heavier, denser oil separates from the CO2 and drops to the bottom of the separator vessel.
Once the CO2 leaves the separator vessel, it continues in a loop until the entire run is complete, at which point it returns to the CO2 cylinder. About 90% of the CO2 is recovered and recycled.
Being fully automated, the system runs itself; it is not necessary to monitor the extraction run. Once the processor/machine operator starts the system, it will run until the extraction is complete, allowing the operator to attend to other matters and return to harvest the oil.
Apeks Supercritical systems are optimized to create concentrated, pure oil. Unlike the butane extraction process, CO2 extractions leave no residual solvent in the oil which is critically important for medical products. Even minuscule amounts of butane or propane inhaled or ingested can present a health risk.
Extractions produce higher yields when the plant material is completely dry. Some Apeks customers (especially those who live in humid climates) use a freeze dryer to remove all the moisture. Once totally dried, the plant matter is ground to the consistency of coffee grounds.
Here’s a video about grinding plant material:
To begin an extraction run, place the ground-up plant material into the system’s extraction vessel which must be sealed properly. The fully automated system prompts the machine operator via the touchscreen user-interface to verify parameter settings based on the type of extraction preferred. Once the parameters are set, the system is ready to start.
A short extraction run (about 20 minutes) at subcritical parameters (low pressure, low temperature), known as a terpene run, extracts light oils, full of terpenes, the plant’s aromatic compounds. These terpene-rich extracts are ideal for vape pens. Longer subcritical and supercritical runs (high pressure, high temperature) extract more of the plant material. In addition to the lighter oils, supercritical CO2 extracts the higher molecular weight materials (waxes, paraffins, lipids and resins) allowing for higher yields. However, these extractions require post processing to remove the fatty substances from the oil (see winterization).
Winterization is the process of removing undesirable plant material (waxes, etc.) from the “crude” oil after a supercritical extraction. To winterize, 200-proof alcohol is added to the extract, mixed well, and placed in a deep freezer overnight. The next day, the mixture is filtered into a funnel where the fatty substances are trapped on filter paper. This can be repeated several times. Once all the fats and waxes are removed, the alcohol is removed by gently heating the oil using a rotary evaporator. Alcohol boils at a different temperature than oil, so it boils off, leaving pure essential oil behind.
Watch a winterization video here:
SHORT PATH DISTILLATION
Oil can be even further refined by short path distillation, which separates different compounds within the oil. For example, if coconut oil without the coconut scent is desired, compounds containing the scent can be distilled off. Similarly, cannabis-specific compounds can be selected, some of which are used in very targeted medicines. Each compound has a different boiling point so by heating the oil, each compound can be siphoned off as it reaches its particular boiling point.
Read more about short path distillation here.
CLEARER DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN BETTER
While clear oils remain popular, the additional processing to further refine them by removing waxes and unwanted substances also strips away many of the beneficial minor compounds found in cannabis. For example, a clear THC oil does not offer the full spectrum of terpenes and other therapeutic compounds. One of our customers, Dr. Markus Roggen from Outco Oil, has written about this and what’s known as “the entourage effect.” Read the article here.
TAILORED FOR DIFFERENT PRODUCTION NEEDS
Apeks offers different sized, expandable oil extraction machines to meet the needs of small, medium and large-scale operations. The Introductory model extracts 7-10 pounds per day, Mid-Range models up to 30 pounds/day, and High Production models up to 100 pounds/day. The High Production Duplex system, optimized for high-speed subcritical extractions, produces pure oils requiring no post processing and extracts 20 minutes per pound. Prices of Apeks systems range from the low $80,000’s to the mid-$400,000’s.
THE APEKS ADVANTAGE
Apeks award-winning systems are manufactured in an ASME-certified facility. The system control panels are UL listed, meeting the nationally recognized UL Standards for Safety. Other manufacturers’ systems require safety mechanisms be in place before an operator license will be issued. Some types of systems even require safety zones in the facility (like bomb shelters) whereas, Apeks systems simply call for a CO2 monitor in case of a leak.
Apeks engineers continually improve system capabilities and invent new technologies, such as these:
Apeks patented Valveless Expansion Technology. Features a uniquely fabricated device that decompresses the mixture of CO2 and extracted oil in such a way that enhances the flow of CO2. (Decompression must take place before the separation process.) Because there are no valves where the separation occurs with the Valveless Expansion Technology, there is no clogging of material or obstruction in the flow of liquid CO2. The enhanced flow of CO2 speeds up the extraction process.
Diaphragm Compressor Technology. Utilizes cold separation which prevents thermal degradation of the botanical material. It also helps keep the system energy-efficient by not requiring costly refrigeration mechanisms.
The Dual-Phase Pumping System. Combines both a liquid pump that allows for high CO2 flows at higher pressures (faster extractions) with the Diaphragm Compressor Technology gas pump for energy efficiency and cold separation.
All systems are designed, fabricated and built on site at the Apeks purpose-built manufacturing facility in Johnstown, OH. Conversely, some other manufacturers purchase parts from a number of different sources, which not only reduces the reliability of their machines but also makes customer support extremely difficult. At Apeks, the customer support staff, in consultation with the on-site engineering team, is available by phone, email and online.
Apeks offers a 3-year warranty on all systems, except the 1500 Benchtop. Three years is longer than many of our competitors have been in business! Each system includes comprehensive training. One of our service engineers will travel to customer sites after their new system is installed to train the operator how to best utilize the machine for their particular operations. Customers learn how to set parameters for a variety of subcritical and supercritical extractions.
The Apeks online parts store is always fully stocked. Parts can be sent for overnight delivery, to minimize any downtime. Full system maintenance is required only every 4,000 hours; however, regular cleaning between runs is recommended for optimal performance. Apeks offers full maintenance service (although customers can do it themselves) for $6,000 to $15,000, depending on the size of the system.