How to Optimize Cannabis Oil Filtration
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The growing consumer appeal of CBD oil has seen an increasing number of manufacturers entering the market and created a race to produce enough stock to fill the demand. But some producers may be unprepared for the challenges of making safe, high quality CBD oil in a manner that’s efficient, consistent, scalable, and compliant with varying regulatory demands.
Manufacturers new to the CBD industry often rely on processes that aren’t compatible with the unique properties of the cannabis plant. These processes not only negatively impact efficiency and yield but raise the risk of ending up with a product that’s rife with impurities.
Two of the biggest impurities that manufacturers need to tackle are lipids and sugar, which are released during the extraction process and can result in an adulterated product. The green pigment from chlorophyll can be viewed as a contaminant in its own right, too; consumers expect CBD oil to be a light, golden color.
Adopting technologies and processes that can enable proper purification, while at the same time preserving potency, is key to developing a manufacturing process that’s both repeatable and scalable.
Cannabis oil filtration fundamentals
Focusing on filtration is critical. Manufacturers often perform extraction and distillation before filtration, but in the case of cannabis, a better approach is to filter the oil immediately after extraction. Filtration technology has advanced to the point where most impurities can be captured and eliminated quickly. In fact, there are examples of CBD producers bringing the processing time for CBD oil down from days to hours after overhauling their filtration processes (more on that later).
A good filtration process will remove both the amorphous solids, like lipids, and the more structured solid fibers from the plant itself. To avoid ending up with too much amorphous material, manufacturers can utilize a prefilter that removes the bulk solids and improve the throughput of the primary filtration. The final step is to run the oil through a scrub, which is typically activated carbon or bleached clay, to remove some of the sugars and improve pigmentation.
Manufacturers need to factor in several variables when selecting the filtration technology that will work best for them. First and foremost is the end product and the regulations that impact the manufacturing of the ingredients of that product. If the CBD oil will be an ingredient in some food, for example, the manufacturer’s equipment will need to meet food contact materials standards set by several international regulators, which will in turn secure their compliance with good manufacturing practices (GMP).
CBD Workflow: Filtration is key to the clarification and decolorization of cannabis extracts (Image credit: Pall Corporation).
However, in the USA, laws governing food contact compliance vary by state, making it challenging for manufacturers to keep up with differing regulations. Manufacturers of CBD oil that will be used in a variety of food and non-food products face an even bigger challenge in managing the logistics of varying requirements.
The good news is that when it comes to filtration technology, it’s now feasible to install one unit that can accommodate many different types of filters. That gives manufacturers the option to try multiple combinations of filters under a variety of manufacturing conditions.
Realizing your ROI
Granted, installing flexible, GMP-compliant filtration technology is a capital investment, but a return on investment is quickly realized.
Consider this example: some manufacturers are using coffee filters for CBD oil filtration that results in a multi-day process with suboptimal yield. Proper filtration minimizes yield loss, reduces processing time to hours and improves purification. It is easy to see how improving the filtration process will improve quality and ultimately boost a manufacturer’s bottom line.
Suprapak: Pall’s SUPRApak filtration modules enable customers to produce consistently high-quality CBD oil (Image credit: Pall Corporation).
Depending on the category of end product, there are shortcuts producers can take to improve their margins, but many of them can negatively impact product quality and leave manufacturers vulnerable to falling out of compliance with rapidly evolving GMP regulations. That’s why it’s so important for CBD oil producers to choose quality, scalable filtration technology, and to do so before the demand for their products becomes difficult to manage.
Ken Belau is a member of Pall Corporation’s scientific and laboratory services (SLS) organization. With Pall’s experience in commercial food and beverage manufacturing, the SLS group works with cannabis manufacturers in assessing and optimizing processes.