Shell & Tube Heat Exchangers for Plant Oil Extraction

Cannabis Processing Shell and Tube Heat Exchangers from Enerquip

The plant oil extraction process, such as cannabis or essential oils, can be affected by several factors, including the type of extraction method used, the quality of the starting material, and the condition of the equipment used. To achieve high extraction efficiency, it is essential to use the right equipment and methods and to maintain optimal conditions throughout the process.

A key piece of process equipment for plant oil extraction, is a heat exchanger. Often a shell and tube heat exchanger is selected to control the temperature of various stages of the process.

A shell and tube heat exchanger consists of a cylindrical shell with a bundle of tubes running through it. One fluid flows through the tubes, while another fluid flows around the tubes in the shell. Heat is transferred between the two fluids through the tube walls.

Plant Oil Extraction – A Unique Process

Plant oils, specifically cannabis, are a complex mixture of compounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and other plant compounds, which can vary in concentration depending on the source material and the extraction method used. Ensuring consistent quality can be a challenge and requires careful monitoring and control of the process. The following are just some of the elements that impact this careful process.

High temperatures: Many cannabis and hemp processing methods involve fluids at high temperatures. Therefore, the process equipment must be designed with materials that can withstand elevated temperatures.

Safety: Cannabis and hemp processing involves the use of potentially hazardous solvents and gases, such as ethanol and butane. Proper handling and ventilation of solvents are essential to ensure worker safety and minimize the risk of fires or explosions.

Viscosity: Cannabis and hemp extracts can be very viscous, which can make it difficult to achieve proper heat transfer. This requires process equipment that can handle the task.

Post-Processing: After extraction, further processing may be required to remove impurities, refine the oil, or achieve the desired concentration of cannabinoids. This can involve additional challenges, such as maintaining consistent temperatures during distillation, managing viscosity during filtration, and achieving the desired consistency for final products.

Corrosion: Cannabis and hemp extracts can be corrosive, which may require process equipment made of stainless steel or higher alloys.

Regulation: Cannabis is subject to strict regulations in many jurisdictions, and processors must comply with regulations related to process standards, licensing, testing, labeling, and packaging. Failure to comply with regulations can result in fines or loss of license, which can be a significant challenge for processors.

While these challenges could appear daunting, a high-quality shell and tube heat exchanger partner like Enerquip, has you covered. Contact us to talk over your specific application or keep reading to learn about the advantages of incorporating a shell and tube heat exchanger into your cannabis extraction process.

Advantages of Incorporating Heat Exchange into Plant Oil Processing

Plant oil extraction is a complex and sensitive process that requires careful attention to heat load. It’s vital to include a heat exchanger into the process. Here’s why:

Temperature control: Temperature control is critical in plant oil processing to maintain the integrity and quality of the final product. Heat exchangers help to regulate temperatures during various stages of the processing, such as extraction, distillation, and decarboxylation, to ensure optimal yields, product quality, and safety.

Efficiency: Heat exchangers can improve the efficiency of the processing by optimizing heat transfer between materials. This can lead to faster extraction times, higher purity, and lower energy consumption, which can save time and money for processors.

Consistency: Heat exchangers can provide a consistent output by maintaining a stable temperature throughout the process. This helps to produce a uniform product with consistent quality and characteristics, which is important for product branding and customer satisfaction.

Safety: Plant oil processing involves the use of flammable solvents and gases, which can be dangerous if not handled properly. Heat exchangers can help to minimize the risk of explosions or fires by regulating the temperature and pressure of the system, reducing the likelihood of accidents.

Shell and tube style heat exchangers are the preferred style for plant oil processing for their high level of thermal efficiency, options for customization, durability and long-life, and built-in safety features.

Applications of Shell & Tube Heat Exchangers in Plant Oil Processing

In cannabis processing, a shell and tube heat exchanger can be used in various ways, including:

Ethanol extraction: Ethanol extraction is a popular method for extracting cannabinoids from cannabis and hemp plants. During this process, a shell and tube heat exchanger can be used to cool the ethanol solvent as it passes through the plant material to extract the cannabinoids. This helps to prevent the solvent from evaporating and ensures maximum extraction efficiency.

Winterization: Winterization is a process used to remove unwanted fats and waxes from cannabis and hemp extracts. A shell and tube heat exchanger can be used during this process to cool the solvent and extract mixture, causing the unwanted fats and waxes to solidify and separate from the cannabinoids. This separation process is more efficient at lower temperatures, which can be achieved using a shell and tube heat exchanger.

Distillation: Distillation is a common process used to purify and concentrate cannabis and hemp extracts. During this process, a shell and tube heat exchanger can be used to cool the vapor produced during the distillation process, causing it to condense into a liquid. This helps to separate and concentrate the desired compounds, such as THC and CBD.

Decarboxylation: Decarboxylation is a process used to activate the psychoactive properties of cannabinoids. A shell and tube heat exchanger can be used to heat the cannabis or hemp extract to a specific temperature for a specific period of time, which is necessary for the decarboxylation process. This helps to ensure that the cannabis or hemp extract is properly activated and ready for consumption.

Cooling solvents: When cannabis is processed using solvents such as ethanol or CO2, a shell and tube heat exchanger can be used to cool the solvent after it has been used to extract the cannabinoids from the plant material. This is important because it allows the solvent to be reused, and also prevents the solvent from evaporating into the air.

Heating cannabis oil: After the cannabinoids have been extracted from the plant material, they are typically dissolved in a carrier oil such as coconut oil or olive oil. A shell and tube heat exchanger can be used to heat the oil to a specific temperature, which can improve the efficiency of the decarboxylation process. Decarboxylation is the process of converting the non-psychoactive THCA and CBDA compounds in cannabis into their psychoactive THC and CBD forms.

Choosing Enerquip for Your Extraction Needs

Plant oil extraction is a complex and sensitive process that requires careful attention to detail to produce high-quality and safe products. Temperature control is a critical aspect of the process, and heat exchangers play a vital role in regulating temperatures during different stages of processing.

Enerquip has been designing and fabricating sanitary shell and tube heat exchangers since 1985. When your product quality and reputation are on the line, trust the experts at Enerquip. To get started, contact us or request a quote today.