Cost savings will ultimately drive adoption of the technology
It seems these days that everyone working in CO2 extraction is talking about one thing: inline winterization — the process of removing waxes, fats and lipids from extract during extraction as opposed to removing them with ethanol afterward. In marketing materials, sales collateral and conference-booth conversations, a host of different extraction machine manufacturers are selling their technology as the best solution for winterization free from ethanol.
Of course, some claims are stronger than others, and healthy skepticism is important when judging them.
While the aspirational talk about innovation, enhanced cannabinoid/terpene retention and shorter production times is encouraging, there are fully launched inline winterization products already reshaping the extract market.
By dramatically reducing operational footprint, eliminating expensive ethanol post-processing and creating premium products less expensively, inline winterization can truly revolutionize the business of extraction.
In order to understand, let’s take a quick look at winterization and why it is necessary.
The removal of unwanted substances, including waxes, lipids and fats, from the cannabinoids, terpenes and other compounds, is an essential step in the creation of high-quality extracts.
Traditionally, ethanol is mixed with crude extract in a secondary, post-extraction process called winterization that exposes the mixture to cold temperatures. It requires a lot of additional equipment, space and labor — which add to the final cost of production.
The cost savings of inline winterization versus standard ethanol winterization are substantial. During one recent analysis, the inline winterization technology resulted in a savings of about 97%.
Additionally, there is universal loss of compounds during the ethanol-based winterization process. This cannabinoid loss highlights a cost that is not visible but is significant nonetheless. A THC extract producer that winterizes using ethanol can lose as much as 5-8% of the valued compounds they are hoping to capture, which can equate to a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a year.
This is precisely why the race to achieve inline winterization has accelerated in recent years — and why news of its development is such a big deal. In a market whose consumers are increasingly demanding a purer, more authentic “plant” experience, it is a potential path to better products, increased sales and, perhaps more importantly, greater profits and greater scalability to meet demand.
Wes Reynolds is the president and CEO of Green Mill Supercritical. He previously served in leadership roles with Surterra (now Parallel) Florida and the Coca-Cola Company.