Personal projects aside, cannabis extraction is big business. It behooves any business to perform cost-benefit analysis (CBA), which weighs all potential costs against perceived benefits to inform decision-making. Different types of cannabis extraction incur distinct costs, which the cannabis extractor must consider when designing their operation.
Supercritical carbon dioxide extraction equipment is generally more expensive compared to hydrocarbon and ethanol extraction equipment. For example, Apeks Supercritical manufactures The Force®, a supercritical fluid extraction rig designed for high output that can process up to 200 pounds dry biomass per day. It retails for $458,500. ExtractTek’s Modular Extraction Platform, a closed-loop system for hydrocarbon solvent, can process up to 360 pounds per day and retails for about $70,000. Ethanol equipment may be capable of even greater processing at the same price point.
On the other hand, carbon dioxide is ubiquitous and non-flammable, making it accessible and affordable compared to other solvents. Furthermore, CO2 can be almost completely recycled. Ethanol is less selective, which may require more extensive post-refinement or lowering the solvent to sub-zero temperatures with additional energy consumption. At large scales, supercritical CO2 may thus outpace other techniques with lower operational costs.
Additionally, ethanol and hydrocarbon solvents have stricter facility requirements due to their flammability. These extraction operations must be situated in Class 1, Division 1 (C1D1) facilities with substantial regulations that include eliminating all ignition points and monitoring gases in real time. The build-out cost for this type of facility has been estimated at $350-$500 per square foot (e.g., $15,000,000 for a 30,000 square foot C1D1 facility). That said, C1D1 can be contained in a single room of a facility with other areas classified as C1D2 for less restrictive measures in areas outside the extraction room.
Solventless extraction systems are much cheaper on the surface but rely on more significant labor/energy relative to product output. Some rosin presses are viable for commercial purposes, such as the Longs Peak Rosin Press from Pure Pressure capable of pressing 35 grams of flower under 8 tons at 300° F. Able to process 7 pounds each day, the machine is available for $7,395. Consumers are willing to pay for additional labor/energy given an exceptional solventless product. Solventless extraction is thus well-suited to artisanal products like traditional hash.
Regardless of extraction strategy, best practices and used equipment are other ways to ensure that extraction costs are maintained to a minimum. When balancing costs, the extractor must ultimately determine the needs of their market and how they can manipulate costs to provide concrete benefits.