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terpenator Mk Ii assembled 2
© skunk pharm research llc 2014
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terpenator Mk Ii assembled 2

The Mk IA & automated Mk II Terpenator BHO Extractor

The Terpenator Essential Oil Extractor

Our main project and the one closest to completion is our volatile gas (butane) essential oil extraction apparatus. This project started when we realized how expensive large quantities of butane are and how environmentally damaging it is to volatilize that butane into the atmosphere. We began to think of a passive recovery device that anyone could DIY with a little help from a local machine shop.

While that was in the brainstorming phase we learned of a DIY active recovery unit designed and built by FOAF, that made use of a refrigerant recovery pump.

Alas, our first pump had a misclocked valve operator from the factory, and though oil less, some how butane still got to the bearings and washed out some oil into the extract.

We discovered the oil in the essential oil extract using a black light, and by the time we figured why the recovery was so ghastly slow, the seals were toast from running dry.

We were back on the hunt for an oil-less refrigerant recovery pump that was suitable for R-600 (Butane). We found a large scale compressor that is used for liquid to liquid extraction of propane from train cars; which would not be suitable for our needs.

From a fellow researcher who had similar problems with pumps, we learned of the Appion unit that ultimately proved successful. He had about 80 hours on his unit at that point without issue.

After choking a few days over the cost, we purchased the same G-5 model Appion, and we have put a several hundred testing hours on it, with one upper end rebuild. Primarily caused by running the pump under hard vacuum too much of the cycle.

After increasing our systems bottom heat and adding column heat in the final recovery, we have noted little loss of performance on the new rebuild.

We were also able to cut the process time in about half, by having our collection pot sitting in boiling water, while we kept our butane recovery and storage vessel in an ice bath.

Presently the test sled is running ten flood and soak cycles over a 30 minute period, using about 10 column volumes of butane, with full recovery in about 15 minutes. The unit has extracted in excess of 25% essential oil extract Absolute by weight, and averages in excess of 20%. A full cycle has a sample floor to floor time of 45 minutes.

With the 24″ column in place, it holds about 240 grams of material, which provides an average production rate of about 80 grams per hour plus raw essential oil extract.

During testing, we noted how boring it was to watch a vacuum gauge and proved that with every new step in a manual process, there is an exponential increase for human error, so our next all stainless steel unit will use explosion proof automatic valves and microprocessor controls. Our new unit will be simple to use even for the most non technical user; load the column, push start and then clean out the collection container and column.

As we have no desire to build more than prototype test sleds ourselves, we sent the conceptual CAD prints out for competitive bid by CNC water jet cutting and machining vendors, as well as an aerospace pressure vessel shop, with ASTME certifications.

Alas, we discovered that with negotiating as an OEM, we can buy the ASTME pressure vessel lower end, cheaper than we can have one made, and even buy columns off the shelf at retail for less than we can have them made using local resources.

As our survival as a company, is more important to us than supporting the local economy in the style to which they have become accustomed, we will modify our designs to reflect that and then start posting the DIY details.

Now that the pressure vessel is a buy out, there is nothing else that isn’t buildable in a garage workshop, equipped with a drill press and TIG welder.

We have taken a deposit from the vender whom has our original test sled leased out, for a fully automated unit, and have ordered the pressure vessel and identified explosion proof automatic Asco valves that will work, but are still reviewing alternatives before placing that order.

The controls is the open question at this point. Our original plan was a PLC micro processor, but after looking at the price for an industrial unit, we are reviewing using simple timers and pressure switches with solid state relays to accomplish the same thing, using a hobbyist microprocessor, or building our own dedicated solid state electronics at about 25% the cost of a PLC with software.

Our mostly retired electronics genius, is pondering the issue on his current vacation in warmer climes, and will begin looking at it seriously on his return. If we end up building our own, we will post an electronics design as well.

We are building this first G-2 prototype ourselves, and I will take pictures as we progress, starting with the modifications of the pressure pot when it arrives.

The unit is designed, so that it can also be fitted with manual valves, and forgo the automation. The current manual test sled works extremely well, so the only advantage to automation, is less stand by labor, and more precise timing of process steps.

We will of course also be trying to beat old process records, whose records continue to improve, and to make loading easier and faster.

Here is a schematic of how the system operates, as well as a picture of the test sled after shakedown.

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© skunk pharm research llc 2014
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