Join in today’s episode of Extraction Essentials with Tony Frischknecht and Nick Gay as they talk about short-path distillation. Nick was able to take a little extraction trip to New Mexico to do a big-scale extraction. Learn the process of short-path distillation and why they had to do an extra step of refinement for their ethanol extracts over there. Listen to today’s episode for more educational content about extractions and oil.
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Taking The Extra Step To Oil Refinement Through The Short-Path Distillation Process With Nick Gay
I’ve got a different episode. We talk about education on the different extractions we’re doing, especially with the Little Buddy. I also want to get everybody aware of some of the big stuff that Nick and the guys at Essential Extraction are doing for the company. Our passion is extraction and we’ve learned a lot by being involved in the extraction, period. Every now and then, we get different opportunities. We had an opportunity to go work on a project out in New Mexico, and I’m going to have Nick explain. This is called short-path distillation.
Nick will go into little more details, but we’re going to go through some of the stuff they did over in New Mexico, process what they were creating, and take a look at extraction on a much larger scale when it comes to big-scale extraction. Nick, thank you so much for joining me. I’m looking forward to talking to you about this and also having you share some stuff that you created, and not just created but also learned while you were setting this up for this company. Go ahead and share with people what the purpose of this, what short-path distillation is, and why you were working on this project.
We have a pretty diverse team with lots of different skillsets. We have anywhere from engineers, processors, entrepreneurs, and then also industry leaders. Every once in a while, we’ll get someone to reach out to us when they need some help with something. This specifically was a CBD operation and they were looking into starting out with their own CBD distillate line to provide to different clients.
How big is this facility that you are working in?
I don’t know the exact size, but I would say it’s at least 10,000 square feet. They’re processing hemp using ethanol by the ton. They have tons of hemp biomass to process and they’re processing it using ethanol in a giant 500-gallon vat with a stirrer. They then evaporate off that ethanol, and then you could put that through this process to come out with CBD distillate, which would then be quite a bit more potent, and you could then take that to another process to make that into CBD isolate if you so choose as well.
Nick, you’re adding this extra process. Why did they have you come and do this? Why didn’t they do it themselves? How long did this take you? Let’s jump into it.
The reason they called us out there is they’re looking for a little bit of extra expertise and then also equipment sourcing at a little bit lower cost than some of the big industry leaders. The reason they’re doing this extra step is to further refine their ethanol extract so that they can then use that in CBD edibles and avoid off-flavors, and then also sell it to herb operators within that state, which is legal there. We’ll jump into the install and keep in mind that as long as you know what you’re doing, it doesn’t take too long to set something like this up. We were only there two days, set everything up, and got some product rocking for them.
It didn’t take them that long. However, these guys have years of experience in this. It’s not something that you jump in and you’re like, “We can figure this out. We’ll watch this YouTube channel.” It’s much more than that. If you are not aware, we’ve got our staple products like our Little Buddy machine extractor, but we can have access to a lot of different extraction machines of all types and all the equipment that surrounds the extraction. If you’re interested in looking for some more information like that, go to ExtractionEssentials.com or you can reach out to us. You’re creating short-path distillation CBD. You’ve got PFPE 501. What is this? What are you doing here?
That is vacuum grease and what that does is this entire glassware system is under vacuum. The reason behind that is what we’re doing is we’re separating compounds by their boiling point. A boiling point of anything will change under vacuum. For example, water boils at around 97 degrees under vacuum as opposed to 220. We’re lowering the boiling point of these different compounds so that we can extract them at lower boiling points and temperatures. I’m greasing up one of the pieces with vacuum grease. You’re going to want to grease up every single joint and connection with this vacuum grease.
The reason behind that is it will create a better seal and then also it provides a little bit of lubrication, so your glass joints don’t get stuck, which you could end up breaking stuff. That’s the first step. You take all your glassware out. You make sure everything’s there and nothing’s broken. If something’s broken, you call the company back, and they’ll get you a new one and that whole deal, but then the second step is then greasing up every single joint. That way, you’re not getting anything stuck.
You’re going through the entire setup and making sure all the joints that are connected to this whole system are vacuum-sealed tight so that you can have a very efficient system, right?
Correct. This is our heater chiller. Before you set up all of your stuff, you want to make sure all your equipment works before you’re starting a run. We set up the heater chiller, and then also the magnetic heat and stirring mantle, and we had that running at heat, and then we had the chiller chilling. I had it set to zero and then we went to lunch. We come back an hour later and it’s at negative 0.08, which is within the parameters that I like.
This thing looks expensive here, this little machine.
This whole setup is quite expensive, but this specific piece of equipment was a little under $2,000. Nothing’s cheap if you’re trying to make quality. It’s the name of the game. We’re setting up all the glassware here. I’m hooking up that big, tall column that’s the condensing column. What will happen is the different compounds go up there and go through this reflux condenser thing and then travel through the secondary condenser, which is that long arm that’s down at a 45-degree angle that I’m putting on there.
One of the major things that you want to keep in mind with the setup of glassware like this is support. That’s why we have that stand behind it. The hardest thing about setting up one of these pieces of glassware is setting up all the clamps and things to hold stuff and support your glassware, so there’s not too much strain on each joint. Once you have that pretty down, you can take everything apart, clean it, and then everything’s set up, and you can put it back in there.
Tell me if I’m wrong here, but this looks like a high-end distilling setup like you would distill alcohol like you’d see in the old days with you’ve got glass everywhere. Is that similar to what you’re doing here and creating a similar process or am I completely off?
It’s a similar process. You’re more likely to see a system like this in a high-end chemistry lab. At a distillery, it’ll be just boiling and condensing, whereas we have the heater at a certain temperature, everything is stirring, and it’s under vacuum. There are all these different components to it that add to the efficiency of the system.
In something like this, you’re controlling the environment much more for the readers out there to give them an idea of this refining process.
To your point, we could 100% make vodka in this system. Would anyone do that? No. It’s way too expensive. It’s too small. You can definitely distill alcohol with using the same system. I’m setting up another piece of glassware, which is called a vacuum takeoff. There’s that black valve on the top there and that’s what controls your vacuum from your boiling flask, which is the piece that has the little black jacket on it on the left-hand side. That controls your vacuum from there to your vacuum pump, which is further down the line. You always want to set up from left to right because as you’re setting up, the glassware is going to be a little bit different, and so you want to make sure everything’s lined up correctly. This was the first time I installed all the glassware, so you always want to make sure every piece up.
If you are interested in this, we’re going to do our best to describe what Nick is doing here. Please tune in to the YouTube channel and check it out there because we’ve got some great photos here. Nick, please continue.
Further down the line, on the far left-hand side at the top of that vacuum takeoff valve, and then that then goes to a cold trap. Cold trap essentially saves the life of your pump because there are terpenes and different compounds that can get sucked into your pump and then ruin it because it eats away the gaskets and thins out the oil. What a cold trap does is you have that little piece there, the little wand that’s still wrapped with a saran wrap. That wand inserts into the top of that cold trap, and it gets to negative 60 degrees.Nothing's cheap if you're trying to make quality. Click To Tweet
That wand has a little cooling agent on the base of it that you set inside this glass container here.
Precisely and that’s sitting inside ethanol. It has this chilled ethanol that the vacuum port sucks the components through the vacuum up along the walls of that chilling coil and then will condense those terpenes, water, and anything like that into a little flask before it goes off to your vacuum. We got all the glassware set up and we’re ready to rock. The next step is I filled up the recirculating chiller up to the condenser and got that running and circulating.
That yellow fluid is the chilling fluid and you can pick the color. You can have it colorless, blue, purple, or whatever. Our client picked yellow. I typically use clear.
That’s got glass running through the center. What you’re saying is around the outside of the cylinder there, there’s another cylinder that encases it with the chilling fluid.
Correct. There’s a hollow centerpiece like that where the oil flows through there, and then around the outside is a peak or a cooling jacket, whatever you so choose. As we’re working, we find other pieces of equipment that the client was like, “We haven’t set that up yet.” We went ahead and set this up for them as well, which is a rotary evaporator, which essentially distills alcohol for you at very high efficiency.
Are you recapturing any of that or are you evaporating off the alcohol?
You boil it off, recapture that clean ethanol, and then leave behind all the unwanted stuff that you then throw away. Me and one of the local staff members are pouring the actual ethanol crude oil into a glass funnel that he is then heating with a heat gun because the herb oil is pretty thick stuff.
When you say crude, it’s black.
It’s got a ton of plant material. It’s not meant to be used in anything at this point, right?
People do use it and, of course, you get the different flavors out of it, but to create a quality, consistent product, you have to take it a few steps further.
At this point, we’re running the system. I poured it in there. We’re under vacuum. The terpenes that are coming out of crude oil, which with some products if you’re using a high-quality oil, those terpenes you might want to save honestly. In this type of oil, you do not want to keep those. You could go ahead and throw those right in the trash. To the right of that, that smaller flask has a little bit lighter fluid in it. That’s the fluid that’s being caught from the cold trap there, and those are other terpenes and then also possibly water.
The terpenes, are they all plant matter?
It doesn’t matter if it’s herb, lavender, or eucalyptus. It’s all in there, right?
I’m thinking maybe we should share what terpenes are if people haven’t heard of them. We talked about it a little bit on the show, but will you share a little bit about your knowledge of terpenes?
Terpenes are essentially the things that give things smells and tastes. For example, we always talk about lavender, so I’ll continue circling back to that. For lavender, there can be a bunch of different terpenes within it. There’s a couple of predominant ones, but there are probably twenty other ones that have minuscule little amounts and that’s what makes things smell the way they smell. The terpene that’s the most prevalent in lavender is linalool. That’s what you and I know as the lavender smell. Whereas myrcene is mango or limonene is lime. There are tons of other things that have those same terpenes but in different ratios. Does that answer your question?
Thanks for expanding on that a little bit more. Most of the setup where the vacuum is hanging. What are we doing here?
Now the system is running. I’ve changed out that larger bottom flask once already. I took the flask off, which was the terpenes. I closed off the vacuum first, took that off, put a new flask on, and then this flask is the flask where we’re collecting our wanted material. That’s our herb distillate.
It looks 100% better than the black oil you dumped in there.
A lot of herb people out there will look at that and be like, “That’s still pretty dark,” but we’re dealing with CBD oil here. We’re not dealing with herb oil and pretty low-quality as well. Most hemp that’s produced is not like the flower you’d buy at a dispensary. To take something like that and turn it into a product that you could see through as opposed to this midnight oil, it’s a pretty big improvement. You can then take that and further refine that and make CBD isolate as well.
It depends on your formulation of what you’re creating for what kind of product you have. This is all up to personal preference, interpretation, and business models. There are so many things that go into how much do I want to refine this.
There’s no wrong answer. There are some people who use that crude oil to make products. For example, if you’re making a soap, salve, or lotion. It might be a little overkill to go this next step. You’re not ingesting it. It’s going to be topically applied on your skin. It’s not like you’re going to taste weird flavors, but in this process, we’re taking out those flavors and then making it more potent as well.To take something like low-quality herb oil and turn it into a product that you could see through is a pretty big improvement. Click To Tweet
You’re adding expenses to it. You’re talking about soap and stuff like that. If people are taking more time, they’re spending more money and spending more of their valuable time when they don’t have to. My background growing up was a carpenter and, you don’t need to sand a 2 x 4 that you’re building a house with down with a nice, fine sandpaper if you’re going to be hiding it in a wall. It doesn’t make any sense. Let’s go on to the next one. We’ve got the five-liter almost all the way full.
To put that in perspective for you, 5 liters is a couple of 2-liter soda bottles or, as far as in grams, 1 liter is 1,000 grams of CBD distillate. We have about maybe 4,000 grams of CBD distillate there. That’s pretty expensive stuff. This process only took a couple of hours. Of course, the equipment’s very expensive, but you can come out with quite a bit of high-end product that has a very high dollar amount attached to that on the marketplace. It’s something to think about as well.
You don’t know the market in New Mexico, but taking it from the crude they had and developing into this product, how much did you say in percentage value has been added to running this process here?
You almost double the potency. You can go from 40% to 50% potency to 70% to 80%, but with that said, you’re going to lose that other amount because it wasn’t what you’re looking for. CBD is thin up and down.
I don’t want the audience to get confused on pricing here because it’s so speculative. The quality is what I was getting at.
The quality that’s probably about 70% to 80% potency. With that said, it’s 4,000 grams at 70% potency. That would be whatever 700 times 4,000 is. That’s how many milligrams of CBD. It’s very potent. You could make tons of products out of that.
Did you say 700 times 4,000?
It’s going to be 2.8 million. Is that right?
There you go. That sounds about right. That’s why I couldn’t quite put it in my head.
It’s us with our team who went there for the setup with our happy client with his oil there, and that’s about it. I wanted to put together this short little montage here to show you how it all works and show you some finished product, and then also, if you ever have any questions about any of this stuff, feel free to reach out. We can always help.
We’ve got David Ross down here on the bottom. It was him and the gentleman here on the right. They’re the ones that created the Little Buddy together. They built this thing from scratch. This is something that we didn’t send off to China to get made. We took the time to design this and see how it worked. These are some of the processes in place where the Little Buddy came from. It came from setting up stuff like this and understanding how we can refine this down more. How can we make this cost-effective for anybody to do it?
We’re working to continue creating a better product as we go on and some of these guys, such as James and David here who put this together and the gentleman who owns the facility down in New Mexico, Brian. He has been in the medical herb world down there for years now, and now he has a hemp facility. We’ve helped these guys many times build a better system at the end for refinement. Nick, James, and David are actively in the process of distillation and extraction all the time. Refinement, filtering, these are things that we keep creating and again, on a large sale. If you’re interested in learning about this process, the short-path distillation, reach out to us at ExtractionEssentials.com.
We are coming up to the end of our season here, but when you read the next episode, we’ll give you some more information about that. Nick, thank you so much for joining us. It’s been great and I learn something new every time. You had some pro tips in there on not wasting your time if your product doesn’t need it. I liked that one. Come back again and join us next time, where we will have another episode.
We take another extraction process and Nick does it for us, right in front of us. He shows us how we can do it. It’s a very simple process that can be done at home. I encourage you to come see us there. It’s going to be fantastic. Nick, great job. We’ll see you next time. Go check out any of the new episodes and any of our old episodes at ExtractionEssentials.com. This is what we do. This is our passion. We love it. We’ll see you next time.
About Nick Gay
A leader in the CBD and herb industry with 8 years experience in new facility set-up, employee training, SOP creation and integration, product production, extraction and distillation.
A collaborative team player who strives for operational excellence and works across all departments to scale production and create safe work environments.
Skilled in Compliance Management, Management, CBD, THC, SOP Development, and Research and Development (R&D). Strong business development professional with a Sustainable Agriculture and Sustainable Manufacturing practices focus.