How Supercritical CO2 Extraction Works, And Why It Can Produce Great Oil with High Terpenes

By Daniel Luebke of HeyLo Cannabis Extracts for True Terpenes

Supercritical CO2 extraction is a word that has started to reach public awareness with the rise of cannabis extracts and concentrates. But how does it work?

A “supercritical fluid” is substance under temperature and pressure past its critical point so that it has properties of a solid, liquid, and a gas. In its supercritical state, CO2 saturates the plant material in an extraction vessel, lifting off various components of the extract, including cannabinoids, waxes, and terpenes into the supercritical fluid. When the supercritical fluid exits the extraction vessel and enters a separator vessel running at a lower pressure in temperature the CO2 flashes off the compounds that were picked up in the extractor. In most extraction systems the CO2 will exit the separator, be re-condensed into a liquid, and pumped back in the extractor vessel, forming a closed loop. After a number of hours the system can be shut down and oil can be pulled from the collection cup.

Every extraction method has unique benefits and drawbacks. Heylo chose CO2 extraction over other methods because it provides a safe, clean, and versatile method of extraction at scale. That said, a high-quality, reliable CO2 system requires a more significant initial investment than other methods such as hydrocarbon, ethanol or solventless pressure.

Where do terpenes come into play? CO2 is a highly-tunable solvent, meaning running your system at different parameters will yield different results. In the case of extracting cannabis, Heylo optimizes our extraction for a full-plant profile rich in the plant’s native terpenes. Terpenes provide not only the prominent taste in extracts, but also medical and experiential benefits. Heylo is grateful to True Terpenes for educating users on the benefits of terpenes in cannabis.

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