On Wednesday, March 24, 2021 IEEE PSES Chicago hosted their business meeting followed by a presentation via Webex. This first virtual meeting of 2021 was well attended. The meeting began with PSES Chair, Barbara Kelkhoff, discussing society business and announcements including the planned virtual tech talk dates for 2021 (topics to be determined), followed by a presentation, “Certification of Cannabis Extraction, Post Processing Systems, Booths and Impending Regulations” given by Robert Deadman.

The presenter, Robert Deadman is a UL senior staff engineer with an electrical engineering background and 30 years of hazardous locations, oil and gas experience in testing, and conformity assessment. He is an expert in ATEX, IECEx, and division-based requirements with a focus on hazardous locations quality systems and equipment assemblies.

Chemical laboratory equipmentCannabis is a growing industry in the USA as more states legalize its use for medical and recreational purposes, and there have been field incidents as a result of unsafe practices, as Bob had stated, “the extraction process often creates hazardous conditions due to fire, shock, high pressures, and flammable solvents being released during processing.” During the presentation, Bob went through the various processes and techniques used for extraction of Cannabis products and the associated hazards associated with these processes. These various methods of extraction include the use of hydrocarbon fuels at about 350 psi, the use of Ethanol at low pressure, the use of CO2 (cold processing) at high pressure and the mechanical method, which is used for non-industrial small scale extraction. The various methods of extraction each have their own potential safety hazards associated with them that need to be addressed. These hazards include fire, electric shock and personal injury concerns as well as explosion, rupture of parts containing hazardous fluids, potential for cryogenic burns (cold processing), toxicity and associated issues with operator error that can lead to potential hazards. He also covered the various equipment used for pre and post processing and the booths commonly used to contain the equipment used for processing. Bob noted that when evaluating the processing booths it is important to address the safety concerns associated with a space containing the equipment and occupied by processing staff including egress, hazardous locations classification, ventilation, etc.

The presentation also covered, the UL standard developed to address this industry including the national standard for the US and Canada, ANSI/CAN/UL/ULC 1389, Standard for Plant Oil Extraction Equipment for Installation and Use in Ordinary (Unclassified) Locations and Hazardous (Classified) Locations. UL 1389 covers all parts of the process including the extraction equipment, the booths, and the pre- and post-processing equipment. Certification of this equipment to UL 1389 will help to address the safety concerns associated with this processing equipment and should aid the industry by helping to prevent delays with building permits, which are required per the fire codes for installation of this processing equipment.

Bob also covered the state of applicable codes for this equipment. The 2021 editions of the fire codes NFPA 1 and ICC IFC will have criteria for this equipment including reference to UL 1389. Reference to UL 1389 is also proposed for the 2023 edition of the NEC. The fire codes currently require that the equipment used for extraction be listed or approved. As Bob explained, a common practice is a peer review of the equipment, which is essentially an evaluation by a licensed professional engineer and a sign off by that engineer on the equipment in order for the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to approve the equipment. With the publication and certification service for this equipment based upon UL 1389 and the updates to the codes regulating installation of this equipment, listing of this equipment will is a way for manufactures to avoid going through the peer review process and ease installation of their equipment.

There were a number of questions following the presentation including how hazards associated with cannabis extraction differ from that of other extraction processes. Bob noted, that there is really a lot of similarities with Cannabis extraction processing to other types of extraction processes, and that similar hazards may exist with those as well. There were also questions on the field incidents that occurred, which seemed to be the result of equipment and facilities not suitably evaluated for safety as well as operator error. It is hoped that these incidents will be reduced in the future with suitable code criteria and application of UL 1389.