Used cooking oil is a commodity generated as a waste by-product of the restaurant industry. Most restaurants offer fried foods such as french fries, onion rings, fried chicken, fried fish, and many other items. Restaurants use soybean, canola, or peanut oil as their fryer cooking oil, but many other oils are used such as sunflower, corn, palm, olive, grapeseed, rapeseed, sesame, or generic vegetable oil. Used cooking oil sometimes is referred to as yellow grease, UCO, used vegetable oil (UVO), recycled vegetable oil, or waste vegetable oil (WVO).

Our company, Clean Energy Biofuels, collects used cooking oil and processes it to make transportation fuels. We operate a fleet of vacuum trucks that drive out to the restaurant and pick it up. Our restaurant customers also like the fact that they get paid for the oil we collect. We service a range of restaurants who use oil to fry food. The types of restaurants we service are; Chinese, Donut, Mexican, Burgers / Fast food, American casual, Bar food, Wings, Fine Dining, Barbecue, Seafood, Fried Chicken, and others. Clean Energy Biofuels also services all of the University of Georgia (UGA) food facilities in Athens GA. We provide the used oil collection containers at no charge to the restaurant.

Used cooking oil collection containers can range in size between 120 to 300 gallons. However, most restaurants have a 120-gallon container. We use both metal and plastic resin container bins for our customers to put their used cooking oil. Most often these bins are placed outside in a service area next to the garbage dumpster. Sometimes, when space is tight, and there is no space for a service area at the back of their restaurant, our customers will have an indoor used cooking oil collection container. These indoor collection containers are typically smaller at around 50 gallons and have rollers on the bottom. These roller bins can be conveniently rolled under the sink area and are convenient when space is tight inside the restaurant.

The capacity of a commercial restaurant deep fryer is measured in pounds of oil held. A gallon of vegetable oil weighs approximately 7.6 pounds. The majority of commercial fryers on the market can keep between 30 to 110 pounds or of cooking oil (4 to 14 gallons) with the largest commercial fryers able to hold 300 pounds or 40 gallons. Commerical fryers can either be powered by electricity or gas.

We estimate that the average single fryer unit will generate around 3 gallons of used cooking oil every 2-3 days with the most prolonged period being five days. Every restaurant is different and has a different frequency of changing their oil. On average, we estimate that the average restaurant will generate around 85 gallons of used cooking oil each month. We typically collect the used cooking oil once a month when the bin gets around 70% capacity. With 35 lbs of oil in the fryer, it will lose about 20% of its volume, meaning that there will be about 28 lbs of oil left when the fryer is emptied.

Fryer oil is sometimes changed daily but can be used up to five days before being changed. If the oil is used beyond this period, the food will not taste as good. The cooking oil will need to be replaced with a fresh batch of oil. Most restaurants use soybean oil as their fryer oil. Chick-fil-A and Five Guys use peanut oil in their fryers while McDonald’s uses a vegetable oil blend that includes a mix of canola, soybean, corn oil, and other ingredients. Foods such as french fries will typically absorb between 8- 25% weight of the food fried. Donuts are known to absorb more than this. The longer the frying session, the more oil is absorbed by the food. Once the cooking oil has surpassed its usefulness to fry food, then the used cooking oil is physically carried to the back of the restaurant and poured into the collection bin.

The composition of the waste oil is on average about 70% used cooking oil, and the rest is water, food material, and other waste. Some restaurants can have a much higher water content in the collection bin while others have lower. The composition of the collected oil is mostly soybean, peanut, or canola and there can be chicken, beef or pork oil content of up to 10%. Beef, chicken, or pork oil comes from the rendering of the oil when the food is in the fryer.

The process to collect cooking oil involves several steps. First, the driver will pull the truck up to the oil collection area and unlock the container. The container is locked because there is a significant rate of theft of used cooking oil. The driver will leave the truck motor running while he/she exits the truck. The driver then measures the amount of oil in the container. The best method to do this is by using a long stick with graduated marks to check the level of oil in the container. The driver then records the amount of oil in the bin and then retracts a hose and inserts into the top of the bin. The operator then engages the PTO (power take-off) mechanism which will engage a shaft from the truck power source to the vacuum pump. The pump will then draw vacuum pressure. This pump can pull vacuum pressure in either direction so that is can be used to either load or unload the oil. Once the oil is pumped out, the operator will clean up the area and make service notes. Fully pumping out the oil will take about 5 to 10 minutes.

Restaurants in towns such as Athens and Decatur are more difficult to service due to the limited space in the, and there is limited space for the truck operator to park. Many of these locations have the small roller oil collection bins that are kept inside the restaurant.

A 1998 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that around 9 pounds of used cooking oil are generated per person per year. Given a U.S. population of 300 million, this equates to approximately 2.7 billion pounds of used cooking oil per year. With so much used cooking oil generated each year, a vibrant market has developed to collect and recycle it. In fact, the market for used cooking oil collection is competitive, and we compete with companies such as DAR PRO Solutions, Valley Proteins, Inc., and Restaurant Technologies, Inc. Clean Energy Biofuels uses a specialized cloud-based SaaS software program with an advanced algorithm to help with scheduling and route planning. The software also helps us control theft of used cooking oil. The operator can make notes on each collection, and the information can be viewed and analyzed in real-time. The program also has an advanced mapping function to help be more efficient and assisting the truck driver/operator avoid heavy traffic.

Once the used cooking oil is collected, it is brought back to our plant in Monroe, GA to produce biodiesel. Biodiesel is created through a refining process using alcohol and a catalyst to convert the oil into usable fuel. Biodiesel is registered with the U.S. Environmental Production Agency (EPA) and is legal for use at any blend level on both highway and nonroad diesel vehicles. Biodiesel is non-toxic and 100% biodegradable offering a supplement fuel to petroleum diesel. Biodiesel is safer to store, handle, and clean up fuel spills. Biodiesel degrades about four times faster than petroleum diesel.

We are eager to collect your used cooking oil. Please contact us today to schedule a pickup.


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