Ethanol vs. Supercritical CO2

Supercritical CO2 vs Ethanol Extraction for CBD Distillation

Selecting the Right Process and Equipment for Your Extraction Lab

Current thinking has most licensed producers (LPs) evaluating ethanol and supercritical CO2 extraction processes as the best options for their extraction labs. Each has its advantages and obstacles, and some LPs choose to employ both methods. Below is an at-a-glance summary of the pros and cons of each, and why we’ve chosen to use ethanol for our mobile extraction labs.

Pros of ethanol extraction

  • The process is fast, making it a good choice for high volume harvests  
  • You’re able to extract pure CBD and THC well, which is excellent for edibles and topicals  
  • Ethanol extraction is more environmentally friendly than alternative extraction methods, as ethanol can be recovered and reused (read more about how we’re Bringing Clean Technology to the Extraction Industry)


Pros of ethanol extraction
CBD distillate produced by extractX mobile labs is some of the highest quality distillate in the world.

Cons of ethanol extraction

  • Most authority having jurisdictions (AHJs) require a fully certified C1D1 or C1D2 hazardous material processing area 
  • Engineering and build-out costs for an ethanol extraction lab can run from $750,000-$1.5 million 
  • Design, engineering, and approval processes can take 12-18 months


Pros of supercritical CO2 extraction

  • While the process is more complicated, you’re able to extract a wider range of cannabinoids 
  • The CO2 extraction process allows you to pull terpenes from raw material, which is preferred for vape pen products  
  • CO2 is non-toxic and non-flammable

Cons of supercritical CO2 extraction

  • It takes 6-10 CO2 extractors to deliver the same output as a single ethanol extractor 
  • Used CO2 gas is released into the atmosphere, adding to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 
  • Supercritical CO2 extraction requires winterization, which drives equipment and operating costs up

Ethanol extraction fuels clean-tech

Our ethanol-based extraction labs help reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to other processes commonly used in the industry. Ethanol can be recovered and re-used between batches, making this method considerably more environmentally conscious than supercritical CO2 or butane extraction methods.

Did You Know? 

As of July 7th, 2021, extractX has been highlighted for funding of up to $1.48 million from the Government of Canada’s Agricultural Clean Technology (ACT) Program. The ACT Program supports technologies that cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve energy efficiency, helping Canada meet its climate change goals. Read the full news release. 

extractX Mobile Labs

For our turnkey mobile extraction labs, ethanol extraction was the clear process of choice. Delivering superior results in efficiency, scalability, and product quality, our turnkey mobile extraction labs arrive fully staffed and ready to start processing within a short time of arrival. Labs are built to comply with local regulatory standardscome with documented SOPs, and trained staff manage ongoing operations, processing up to 189lbs. of biomass each day.

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