By Brandon Colletti [talk to brandon at]

Across the industry we’ve seen examples of eager new processors and extractors procuring equipment before they are fully prepared, or a facility has been identified. This can lead to costly delays and opportunity cost, as there is an optimal balance that must be struck between choosing the right facility and the right equipment; each interacts with each other very closely. So, with this in mind, this article seeks to answer the question:

When should a company begin seeking equipment for their new production facility?

Start with Solvent Limits

First, it is important to understand the types of solvents required in each process, and the compatibility of said solvents within the facility and jurisdiction where the facility is located. For example, Hawaii does not allow any type of solvent other than CO2, while most states allow a wide variety of solvent options for botanical extraction. The main solvents utilized in most processes are alcohols (ethanol, methanol etc.), hydrocarbons (butane, propane, hexane etc.) and no-flammable gases such as CO2. However, CO2 still requires the introduction of other solvents, primarily an alcohol, for the dewaxing/winterization process as more waxes, free fatty acids, sugars and other impurities are pulled more consistently while utilizing super and subcritical CO2 extraction.

Understanding MAQ

Lets dive deeper on the maximum allowable quantities for each solvent and what sort of occupancy one should seek based on their solvent limits:

Any facility will have an occupancy designation with a corresponding MAQ (maximum allowable quantity) of solvent in process and in storage. This dramatically impacts a businesses ability to scale relative to these MAQ’s, and should be considered heavily when procuring a facility, not only for the current processing goals, but future scaling goals as well. SciPhy Systems recommends allocating additional space in your facility for increased production in the future; there is no need to let a bad building choice hamper your production goals in the future. 

Determining the MAQ for your facility occupancy can be broken down into 4 steps:

  • Step 1: Determine the facility Occupancy Rating
  • Step 2: Determine the facility Hazardous Material Type
  • Step 3: Determine Hazardous Material Class
  • Step 4: Determine Hazardous Material State

When determining your occupancy rating, it is important to reference the National Fire Code 1: In most instances, a production facility will fall under Business, Industrial, Hazardous, or Storage. Each of these designations is matched to an MAQ for each type of solvent used in any process. The best designation to seek is H occupancy for the processing facility. This allows the most amounts of solvent to be in process and stored at your facility, though its safety standards are also the most rigorous.

Now that the facility occupancy has been identified and chosen, one must determine the facility hazardous material type. Hazardous material types include corrosive materials, flammable materials, and toxic materials, with specific designation for solids, liquids, or gases in each category. In some instances, there are also toxic or highly toxic solids, liquids, or gases present in the process. More information can be garnered by referring to NFPA 1:60.3.1.

Exploring Material Class

Once the material type has been identified, next the material class must be identified. Many of these materials are further broken down into classes. These classes are based on the state of the material, or the potential hazard it possesses. They Are defined in the materials definition (NFPA 1:3, or Glossary of Hazardous Materials Classifications found in the NFPA).

Finally, the hazardous material state must be identified. Some hazardous materials can be stored, used, or dispensed in different forms or states. Determine whether the solvent required in the process is a solid, liquid, or gas.

When these steps come together, the process should emulate something like this:

As the owner of "Hemp Processing Solutions," I find that there is a need for Flammable Liquids on site. I start by going to the table in NFPA 1: This table outlines the MAQ per control area in Business Occupancies.

In the "Material" column I find ‘Flammable Liquids’. I see that there are different allowances based on class. Furthermore, research reveals that this is a Class II Flammable Liquid.

Next we need to determine in what state the material will be. Located in the same "Material" column, I find ‘Flammable Liquids’ with the only option available being Liquid. I choose to utilize this material in its liquid form. Under the column labeled "Gases" I see that I can house 240 gallons of Class II Flammable Liquid per control area. Note that liquids are under this “Gases” column, the NFPA formatting can be a little tricky.

Spatial Requirements

Now that the type of hazardous solvents have been identified with the corresponding MAQ’s, it is now important to understand the spatial requirements of the processing equipment. In most instances, a pilot scale hemp processing facility (processing a minimum of 150 lbs of biomass per hour) requires at least 6,000 sq ft of floor space with a minimum height requirement of 18 feet. Should the height requirement preclude a particular facility already chosen, there are other ways to accommodate the height requirement by installing a cupola for example. 

Power is also a major contributor when choosing a facility as it directly relates to the equipment. Generally speaking, it is ideal to seek a facility with at 1000 amps of three phase power available to the processing line. 

Conclusion: When to Procure

So, when should one procure equipment? As outlined above, it is ideal to simultaneously identify the type of solvents to be utilized, hazardous materials that will be present, and the power and zoning requirements the equipment will require. It is important to identify the equipment set early during the facility procurement phase to be sure costly delays and additional buildout is not required after the facility has been chosen. In other words, before choosing a facility, one should identify the process being used then seek out the facility. Check to be sure the requirements of the equipment can be matched to the facility chosen while minimizing additional costs associated with buildout for a new hemp production facility.

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