Ethane Extraction

Hello everyone! I am a long-time lurker and have to thank everyone for everything I have gained here on Future4200! I figured I would start off with a seemingly unrealistic idea I have had rolling around my head for a few months now. Has anyone ever heard of Ethane (or Methane) extraction?

For those who do not know, ethane (C2H6) is the next lightest straight-chain hydrocarbon after propane (C3H8) and butane (C4H10), followed only by methane (CH4). Ethane has a boiling point of -128F (-89C), and a vapor pressure of 540 PSI at 70F. When I have purchased butane or propane in the past, I was surprised to see liquid ethane on the price sheet at the same order of magnitude price as our usual 70/30 blend. The most obvious obstacle (besides safety!!) would be recovery, but maybe liquid nitrogen, cryogenic chillers, and a recovery pump could be used? 500 psi seems outrageous, but maybe a supercriticial CO2 extractor could be modified with compatible gaskets and a high-pressure explosion-proof recovery pump? I hate when people advocate open-blasting, especially with so many more responsible methods available, but blasting a few oz of ethane through a tiny column could yield interesting results for curiosity sake.

I am NOT RECOMMENDING anyone try this out, as we all know butane and propane are volatile enough to create serious safety concerns and deadly explosions. I do not work with hydrocarbons anymore, so I have little to gain from this idea. I just wanted to throw it out and see some responses. The only advantages I could see from this would be insane terp preservation and minimal purge time.

Before you say I am totally crazy, I will provide a link below which was basically all I could find about ethane extraction. My idea was just liquid ethane extraction, but could it work as a supercritical solvent? My guess is that supercritical ethane would pull all the waxes, and inline dewaxing could not work with a supercritical system and would require cooling below -128F. This article states that supercritical ethane is a better solvent for deterping orange oil than supercritical co2:

Ethane as an alternative solvent for supercritical extraction of orange peel oils

I also remember job-searching a few months ago and reading an extraction lab manager listing where they wanted methane, ethane, and natural gas pipeline experience for a cannabis buildout. Of course I cannot find the posting at this time. Maybe HR got carried away? Or are people really experimenting with natural gas?


If you want to do big oil, then looking for folks with experience in big oil make a lot of sense. I would assume they were looking for someone not afraid to scale rather than looking to extract with methane, but I’ve got zero to base that on.

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