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S1 E04 - Filtration Of Cannabis Extracts
Episode 412th January 2021 • The Modern Extractor • Jason Showard
00:00:00 00:57:49

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Come on down the filtration rabbit hole! Jason discusses all things filtration with guest Maria Peterson of Scott Laboratories. Maria Explains why Scott Labs' lenticular filters are the best tool for the job when filtering your cannabis extracts. Also discussed are bag filtration, large scale cross flow filtration systems and how to build the ideal staged filter system to minimize your downtime and maximize your throughput.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

Jason Showard - 00:00:10 

Hello and welcome to episode four of The Modern Extractor. This podcast focuses on the processes, equipment and science found inside a cannabis extraction laboratory. I'm your host, Jason Showard, and I work professionally in the cannabis extraction field. Here in season one. We're focusing on ethanol extraction and post-processing, with each episode digging deep into a particular stage in that process. The shows are released in an order that follows the progress of material through a lab as it makes its way from cultivar to concentrate. 

 

Jason Showard - 00:00:40 

First, let me take a minute to thank all the new listeners that have poured in over the last week. The show went from me being stoked every time I'd get a listener to, who are probably my friends that I sent links to, to absolutely blowing up over the last few days. Putting the show together is taking a lot of hard work and seeing the metrics go nuts makes it all 100 percent worthwhile. So very sincere and heartfelt thank you from me to all of you for tuning in. 

 

Jason Showard - 00:01:03 

Now, if I can talk you guys into subscribing and rating and reviewing the show, it'll help me book awesome guests for you in the future. Last week on the morning extractor, we had Adam Chambers on from Delta Separations to give us the latest from Delta. As a long-time processor prior to joining the Delta team, he gave us his go-to S.O.Ps for cold centrifugal extraction, as well as a ton of general extraction knowledge. This week takes us to the next stage, which is the filtration process. 

 

Jason Showard - 00:01:27 

Filtration is a difficult concept to wrap your head around. There's a lot of theorizing that goes on when you start to try to pick it apart. It certainly has a lot of feel to it, and it's hard to collect hard data about how and why things are happening. If you're the local filtration expert at your facility, that's certainly worth a feather in your cap. But if you're the filtration expert at the filter company, that makes you a complete boss in my book. 

 

Jason Showard - 00:01:48 

And that's exactly who we have with us today. Maria Peterson from Scott Laboratories is joining us on the show to discuss filtration. She's by far the most knowledgeable person I've ever spoken to on the subject. And I learned something new from her every time I get her on the phone. So without any further ado, Maria Peterson, welcome to the show. I'm really excited to have you on today. Tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming the filtration expert at Scott Laboratories. 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:02:10 

I was a winemaker for ten, I think about ten years. All over the world and kind of floated from one hemisphere to the next to be able to do two harvests in the same year and get as much experience as I could. Because, you know, you can go to university and get a degree in something. But then once you leave, you really quickly find out that, you know nothing. 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:02:38 

You know very little about the practicalities of making wine and getting something into a bottle, you know. That is that is quite the thing. So then my journey eventually led me to the US, and I met the folks at Scott Labs. And, you know, the conversation started like, "We need this person that can talk to other customers about filtration." And I'm like, "Oh, good luck. That's a gray area where you can pretty much get lost." Because the thing about filtration is that it's designed to make you feel insecure. If you don't feel a little bit insecure about it, there's probably something wrong with you if it doesn't maybe challenge you every now and then. 

 

Jason Showard - 00:03:30 

Yeah, yeah. It was those challenges that actually ended up having me get you on the phone for the first time. 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:03:36 

Oh, good. 

 

Jason Showard - 00:03:37 

Call in with enough nerdy questions and you eventually get escalated up to top tier support, which is Maria and team. 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:03:45 

Oh my goodness. Yeah. That's what happens, is nobody else will take the call. They're like, they don't want to say, "We just don't know." You know, that's what I really like about the team at Scott Labs that they're always looking to learn and to figure it out and to not tell the customer, "Hey, man, sorry, you're on your own." It's going to be either, "We'll get back to you on this one. We have to kind of ask some people, because I certainly don't have all the answers, but I know a lot of much smarter people than I to get me those answers." And then kind of because they're such smart people, it translated to normal people such as you and I. 

 

Jason Showard - 00:04:26 

Yeah, it's had to have been kind of an interesting path for you jumping into this new market with a whole new set of challenges that are not the same challenges that you find in the wine industry. 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:04:38 

Definitely, it keeps it interesting and keeps you thinking on your feet and kind of looking at, you know, the same old thing that you may have sold to a winemaker or a brewer and going, "Oh, wait, wait a minute. This is not for, this is not the way. They're not going to be fermenting something." So now we're not necessarily dealing with things like yeast and bacteria. Now we're looking at all those lovely colloidal materials like lipids and waxes and things that like to show up when you chill them, for example. 

 

Jason Showard - 00:05:18 

Yeah, exactly. So some of the players that are in the extraction space are there because they really went after it and targeted it, and others kind of have fallen into it. I'd imagine already being established in the beverage space. You guys fall into the "fell into that" category. Tell me what some of the conversations were like when you guys realized over there that you had a whole new group of customers. 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:05:46 

Well, it was like, "Oh, wow, these guys." It was like I was excited because, you know, having worked in the wine industry on the East Coast, it was and in the Bible Belt, that it was always, you know, alcohol in many of the parts in the southeast is still a no-no. 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:06:07 

And it was and, you know, you have to go back to church if they found you drinking, for example. So I was always preaching like, "No man. Prohibition has been over for like 80 years. It's time. It's time to, like, let go of those beliefs." And all of a sudden in California, I found myself talking to people from all over the country that just had this, you know, it felt like they were finally allowed to have the conversation and not feel like you're in danger of somebody listening in and being like, "You're going to jail for having cannabis." You know, kind of thing. 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:06:48 

So I found it really refreshing. And then the people that, the people in your space, they are mostly extremely knowledgeable about extraction and can spin lovely biochemistry stories about things that that just makes me marvel. And I think it's fantastic. 

 

Jason Showard - 00:07:11 

It's a really great group of people with a good energy of exploration. And they're all used to wearing a lot of hats. Because for so long you really couldn't make the phone calls to ask questions. So I think a lot of the people that they gravitate towards this field, are people that are good at wearing a lot of hats and good at figuring things out, or have a really great group of friends that they can ask questions of. But for the most part, I think really, it's just people that are the jack of all trades that is going to be able to make it happen. 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:07:43 

Right. 

 

Jason Showard - 00:07:43 

That said, it's like it's a fun group of people to hang out with and to interact with and to problem solve with because they're skilled at it. 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:07:52 

Definitely. I find that most of the calls I get is from really open-minded people that can think laterally. And they normally, which is a funny one, is they would call and say, you know, "This is what I'm looking for. This is how I'm going to do it." They already have an idea of what they want. The ones that don't are like, "What are the other folks doing?" And it's kind of like, "This is the middle road. You know, this is kind of what most people are doing." But some of the others are very, they're very sure of what they want. And they would very rarely call back to say something didn't go well. And this is something where winemakers, ah, poor winemakers. I have to kind of talk behind their back a little bit, but they will call immediately and say, "How did this go wrong? I can't make this mistake again because it's not working. Help me figure it out." And with the like, I call you guys the botanical extract community. 

 

Jason Showard - 00:08:58 

Yeah, yeah. I learned real quick that that was the code word I had to use when I called in if I wanted to talk to anybody over there. 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:09:04 

Oh, my gosh, that's crazy. 

 

Jason Showard - 00:09:06 

If you didn't say botanical extracts and you said cannabis, we got shoved off to another vendor. 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:09:12 

So I and I don't want to make the people that are extracting peppermint oil feel bad about not having CBD and THC in their setup, you know. 

 

Jason Showard - 00:09:22 

So it really is botanicals. 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:09:24 

Exactly. And so and so, yeah, they would say, "This is what we want." And you guys really call back and say, "This didn't go so well." And the feedback is always appreciated because we don't learn if we don't hear back. But on the other hand, I'm always also very grateful not to hear back because I assume no news is good news. 

 

Jason Showard - 00:09:51 

Exactly. Yeah, the IP in the cannabis industry is very protected. Everybody kind of holds everything they're doing close to their chest. So I'd imagine walking into a winery, it's an older craft and a lot of the tricks of the trade are already kind of out there. So it'd be easier to get straight answers about, you know, what they're doing and then figure out how you can help them. 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:10:12 

Oh, sure. 

 

Jason Showard - 00:10:13 

But there may be a little bit of resistance in the sharing of information in our field I'd imagine. 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:10:19 

Yeah, yeah. It's and it's really, you know, my goal when I talk to someone is really to try and figure out how can we make your life easier in the long term. We're not just looking at how is next week going to go, but we're looking at, if it's something like as simple as a flow rate or a batch size. How is it looking now? And then if you were to dream, or you were to project, would that change? And if it changes, how would it change? 

 

Jason Showard - 00:10:50 

All right, so circling back a little bit to the fact that Scott kind of fell into the extraction space because they already had a great product that also worked for ethanol extraction. Now that the lenticular filter's kind of become an industry standard. There are some people that are directly marketing filters to the extraction space and really nipping at your heels. What are you guys doing as a company to hold your ground there? Are you marketing any products directly to the extraction space or making any product design decisions that are extraction focused? 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:11:32 

Right. Very good question because it's a little bit about supply and demand. And it's a tough one, because if the majority of the industry says, "We want a one-micron lenticular module." But you chill something down and you bring a number of colloidal materials and components out of solution, is it the most efficient to go so tight so quickly, or would it be more efficient to go slightly coarser and get a better throughput? And so if the industry comes with you and says, "No, no, no, we want a one-micron, because this is what the company that sells our extraction equipment uses and we just want to do what they do." Then having the conversation is kind of like it's better to wait until the student is ready for the teacher to appear so that when they run into, it's time to be more efficient, how can we use, how can we get more out of our filter media? 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:12:38 

Then you can say, "Oh, well, let's look at what are you trying to remove? These are the efficiencies." Then, there's a lot more questions coming up. So it's two-pronged. It's being there when the industry says, "This is what we want, and we've already decided about this." And then after a while when there's already been a little bit of this going on, then you can say, "Oh, well, if you want to be able to remove more of these components consistently, maybe let's try another grade and see how that goes. And let's take notes and see if that is even relevant." 

 

Jason Showard - 00:13:21 

OK, that makes sense. What would you say that your most common product sold into the extraction space is? 

 

Jason Showard - 00:13:28 

So typically this is how the majority of our customers would go. They would, depending on their extraction equipment, they would or would not need an extra something like a bag filter housing or a screen just to pick up rogue plant material that might have come through. And then you would go. Then you want dirt holding capacity like. So if you, if we look at the term dirt holding capacity, we're looking at kind of a media that has a lot of, let's call it a labyrinth. 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:14:06 

Right. So it's like a tortuous path that these, that the liquid has to go through for all these particles to be caught. And the reason why lenticular media is so popular is because it's a cellulose-based media that carries a charge. So you have a three-pronged method of retention. You have surface filtration. So whatever gets stuck on the surface will then build up a layer. And as that layer, whether it's visual or visible to the naked eye or not, that will keep on building up as the filtration progresses and that builds more surface area as you go. 

 

Jason Showard - 00:14:48 

Yeah, your filter quality ends up being a better-quality filtration towards the tail end of that media. 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:14:54 

Exactly. 

 

Jason Showard - 00:14:55 

But man does it take a lot longer? 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:14:57 

Right, exactly. And then you have charge in this media. You know, if there is a filter aid in that media like diatomaceous earth or perlite or resin. Those all contribute to charge that will then hold on to a counter charge. So that's the second mode. And you don't have that kind of charge with things like a bag filter, which is normally polypropylene felt. That's not going to hold onto things that have a charge unless they're big enough a particle to just not get through. 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:15:33 

But most colloids are like so squishy and soluble, they can get where they need to be if there is no charge. And then you have just really that tortuous path that's just holding onto particles because literally they can't get through. So that's why lenticular in particular is so good because you have the same charge that you would on a filter sheet. But it's in this modular form, which is a closed system. So there are a bunch of advantages to it. And we'll probably get into that a little bit, in a little bit. 

 

Jason Showard - 00:16:13 

Yeah, exactly. We'll jump into the technicals here in a minute. But I think I just learned something from you. Are you saying that the actual colloidal materials are being caught by the charge? More so than the actual filter mesh size? Is that accurate? 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:16:33 

That is exactly accurate. So it really is fascinating. If you look at diatomaceous earth in particular, you've got these fossilized algae, is really what it is, and it is mined. So that sounds all very like cloak and dagger, right, if you think about it. It's like hey we're using historical material to filter this, but it's still one of the most efficient ways to break charge. And you get diatomaceous earth and use for all kinds of things in different grades. 

 

Maria Peterson - 00:17:11 

So the grades that are used in making filter media is some of the purest. It's a very small amount that's normally used in this kind of filter media, but with lenticular specifically, it's the same media as filter sheets, but it's just put in this modular form. 

 

Jason Showard - 00:17:30 

All right, that's some good information. Let's jump around a little bit and we'll get into the technicals of lenticular filter before we get too techie on how exactly it works. Can you give us a rundown of what a lenticular is, what it looks like? We can get into the bell housing and...

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