CO2... Better than BHO?

End products from Apeks Supercritical Systems

How does BHO work?

Why Butane?

Why CO2?

Terpene Extraction

BHO has a reputation for preserving terpenes (the compounds that contain the smell of cannabis, and also provide extremely beneficial health benefits). However, technology has developed significantly in CO2 extraction systems, which means that they can also extract terpenes, just as well as BHO systems can. The Apeks Supercritical systems can fractionate, which means the extraction can be done in increments – a short terpene run, then harvest; a longer subcritical run, then harvest; and finally a full supercritical run before harvesting the final extract. In this way, the operator extracts all the oil from the plant, and is able to get a full return on his/her investment.


Los Angeles became the first city to propose an outright ban on BHO. Other areas in the country will likely follow suit as the industry matures and is regulated. Volatile extractions, no matter if they’re closed loop or not, are still volatile, and require a whole slew of safety features. CO2 is non-toxic, non-flammable, and the extracted oil is 100% free of residual solvents, all of which is why it’s a preferred solvent by many districts.

Ancillary Expenses

In districts where BHO is allowed, the system cost is not the only factor to take into account. Butane operations have to operate under the tight controls of Class 1, Division 1, in explosion proof facilities. Operators will need to budget for required safety equipment, some of which can be pretty expensive! Simple things like light switches, fans, and ventilation systems need to be properly installed to avoid even tiny sparks. Butane extraction systems also need proper ventilation in the laboratory and even require the equivalent of a bomb shelter to house the extraction system in. By contrast, the most safety equipment a CO2 operator will need is a $15 CO2 monitor to detect leaks. And when you consider that CO2 is what fire fighters use to put fires out, inspectors are far more inclined to approve a facility using CO2!


The entire industry is slowly moving towards more regulation and control, with government oversight from everything to packaging and presentation, to extraction methods. A butane extraction system leaving parts per million in medical marijuana may not get the green light, but a CO2 system with no remaining extract will receive a warmer welcome. Consumer demand will also require a greener, healthier product – an organic brand will not pass certification if it contains any traces of solvent. A subcritical/terpene run from a CO2 system won’t pull any undesired plant material, therefore there’s no post processing required, and all that’s extracted is pure botanical oil, ready for a vape pen or an edible.

Technology has advanced since the giddy start up days in the cannabis industry and there is more oversight than ever before. CO2 is quickly catching up, if not surpassing, BHO in the extraction business, for good reason! Ultimately, an operator should look at what they want to produce, before deciding on the extraction equipment they want to use. The end product dictates the system they’ll use: BHO or CO2.

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