The medicinal use of cannabis is becoming normalized in a growing number of states. Some of the products used include botanical oils. The botanical oil extraction process relies on pressure and solvents generally recognized as safe by the FDA. CO2 and hydrocarbon solvents such as butane or propane are the most common. Systems that use nButane work at relatively low pressures in the range of 80 to 150 psi. CO2 systems operate at higher pressures up to 5000 psi. Obviously, a failure at these pressures can be dangerous to workers, and natural gas products also carry the risk of fire and explosion.
Equipment suppliers understand these risks and design safety into their systems. This task is somewhat complicated by the need for a sanitary fitting for a botanical oil extractor that can handle the pressure, can be quickly opened for vessel cleaning, and for sight glasses that allow operators to observe stages of the process.
This is the context in which a botanical extractor equipment manufacturer contacted us. It needed a source for sanitary clamps that would safely handle high pressure. The normal clamps available did not seem to have sufficient pressure ratings.
This request reminded me of the extraordinary efforts taken a decade ago to get our special high-pressure clamp ASME rated. It wasn’t easy. To meet the requirements the clamp had to pass a high-pressure torture test with a 5x safety margin. Thanks to a heavy-duty 3-bolt and hinge design, quality steel, and a unique Omega profile that provides uniform clamping compression, our ASME Section VIII rated sanitary clamp is recommended by ASME inspectors for use on pressure vessels. In fact it’s still the only clamp to carry this rating.
After I told our story, the manufacturer ordered samples for testing and ended up standardizing on our ASME clamp. Other extractor manufacturers followed suit, believing that having an ASME rating would help their designs pass peer review.
The cannabis industry in Colorado, where these companies are located, is supervised by a state governing body that requires peer review of equipment designs used for botanical extraction. The consulting and OEM engineers that perform peer review insist on significant safety margins. Our sanitary fitting achieves that.
For moderate pressure ratings, equipment manufactures like our two-bolt safety clamp, also with an Omega profile, that prevents disassembly while under pressure. The heating and chilling process of botanical oil extraction produces thermal cycling that can loosen clamps, so a sanitary fitting must endure repeated cycles without failure or disengaging.
There is more to the story. The company wanted a sight window rated for 500 psi but didn’t see a window with that rating. I explained that we try to be conservative with our published specs, and the actual pressure ratings of our sight glasses are actually higher than what is published in the datasheet. After a bit of research, I offered written assurance that our smaller MetaClamp sight windows would meet their requirements. I even showed them the math used to calculate maximum pressure.
We were able to help this company, and several others like it in this industry. While botanical oils are used for many purposes, the recognition of the medicinal benefits of cannabis is driving the need for safe, reliable extraction equipment. I’m happy that our company can help solve these engineering challenges.