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Economics of Supercritical Fluids - Myths vs. Facts

February 7, 2013

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Some folks still think that processing with supercritical fluids is not economical. Unfortunately, the general impression still exists among chemists and chemical engineers that supercritical fluid processing is associated with high costs. In reality, you only need to look at CO2-decaffeinated coffee and tea and CO2-extracted hops, which are being sold at prices competitive with their organic solvent extracted counterparts, and this fact alone contradicts the high cost association.

The erroneous association of high cost with supercritical fluid processes derived from the fate of several widely publicized (but ill-advised) studies in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when their lack of industrial viability was attributed solely to a "high processing cost." In actuality, there were technical limitations to the applications at the time and when they weren't industrially successful, it was easy to ascribe the blame to "high costs."

To sort out some of the economic misgivings, here's our take on the myths surrounding supercritical fluids, and the actual facts on the matter:

Myth: Supercritical fluid extraction is always more expensive.

Fact: Today, commodity items such as coffee, hops, and spices are processed by SFE and are economically competitive with traditional organic solvent extraction. Supercritical fluid extraction of nutraceuticals such as saw palmetto, antioxidants, and omega-3 concentrates can, in many instances, be even less expensive than traditional solvent extraction processes due to the elimination of solvent recovery steps.

Myth: Researching supercritical fluid applications is way too time-consuming.

Fact: SFE is simpler than traditional extraction processes, because clean-up and recovery of the SCF solvent occur in a single-step extraction.

Myth: You need your own processing equipment to take advantage of supercritical fluids.

Fact: Our ability to process 1,000, 10,000 or 100,000 kg campaigns enables our clients to evaluate supercritical fluids for their applications with no early-stage, high-risk capital investment. Let our expertise in Toll Processing provide you with rapid process/product development and scale-up, thus minimizing your costs and decreasing your time to market.

Supercritical fluids have been frequently proven to be excellent - often superior - solvents with far ranging attributes for many purification problems. If you are considering the application of supercritical fluids to your extraction, purification, or fractionation process, we can help you assess the merits completely free of charge. Try our No Cost Test today.






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