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The Role of Butane/Propane in Plant Extraction

by BVV |

Many plants produce resins and oils, which when isolated can be used for a wide array of applications.  Some of the most popular uses are for flavoring food, healthcare, and apothecary.  Given that these compounds can have vast chemical differences, various extraction methods exist to isolate them.   

There are two main extraction methods: solvent and solventless cannabis extractions. Solvents are substances that dissolve into a liquid. The most popular solvents in plant extraction are butane and propane, both natural gases at atmospheric temperature. Solvent extraction is more widely used because it can be done on a larger scale than solventless. Solventless extraction, on the other hand, is extraction less the introduction of any foreign materials other than water.

Butane and Propane: What are the differences?

Butane, or C4H10, is an alkane natural gas found in two forms: n-butane or isobutane. N-butane is the most commonly-known derivative; it is a highly refined and flammable hydrocarbon that is used in torches, cigarette lighters, and stoves. Butane is a non-polar compound.

Propane is a common non-toxic solvent. It is primarily used in the spices, flavors, and fragrances industries, even though it is odorless and colorless. The U.S. propane supply is growing in abundance because of the burgeoning market for natural gas. Propane is a non-polar compound.

Blending the two gasses, butane and propane, is common practice. This blend would contain both solvents, which will yield a greater number of extracted compounds than the solvents individually.  


Butane Extraction

Butane extractions occur in a closed-loop extraction system.  These units are closed, devoid of atmosphere, and recover the gas to its original vessel.  These units use pressure differences to move the pressurized solvent through the system.  Given that butane has a boiling point of 30.2F, it can easily be re-condensed without the use of extreme temperatures.  This makes butane the solvent of choice for passive recovery.  Butane tends to yield a more stable extract, as polar terpenes are left behind.  

Propane Extraction

Propane extraction is basically the same as butane extraction, with the exception of pressure.  Since propane has a boiling point of -43.6F, it creates much higher pressures.  This is advantageous because the solvent temperature can be much lower without losing pressure.  Subzero temperature helps stop the extraction of lipids and waxes, giving a higher purity to the extract.  These pressures, however, make passive recovery almost impossible without the use of dry ice or liquefied gasses.  A recovery pump is used to assist the propane in recovery.  Given that propane is a non-polar compound, it is superior in extracting many aromatic terpenes.  

What are the benefits of butane/propane extraction?

Hydrocarbon extraction is often used in large production.  Large amounts of material can be extracted at once, and because these solvents have such low boiling points, they can be distilled from the extract quickly, and without using high temperatures can degrade the product.  These solvents are used for full plant extracts, and post-processing can yield various consistencies.  This makes butane/propane extraction a preferable method.

Why BVV?

A superior end product begins with superior materials. Best Value Vacs butane/propane tanks are made in America and 100 percent tested before point-of-sale to ensure long-term profitability for users. The required higher quality and labor standards that go into each and every product ensure a better result for every customer.

With U.S. natural gas quantities dramatically increasing, domestic butane and propane are repeatedly the preferred choices for our customers. Our butane/propane solutions provide higher quality extraction for the customer with little to no unknown oils at a cost that makes sense for your operations. Additionally, with our short distance-to-market, your materials will be available to you in a more timely manner so you can get back to businesses more efficiently. Contact us to help you choose which system fits your needs.

Blended Gas

Many extractor operators prefer to use a blended gas of butane and propane. Since these gasses make an azeotropic mixture, the boiling point of the mixed gas ends up being a middle ground between the two parts of the mixture. This allows the operator to have slightly higher pressure than pure butane, without having to operate above 100PSI. Common mixtures are 70% Butane – 30% Propane, known as 70-30 and a 50-50 blend.

Blended gas will have different pressure at a given temperature. Higher levels of propane will increase the pressure. Please refer to the chart below.


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