Oil Collection Techniques for Biodiesel

By Rick Da Tech


There are a number of variations on collection techniques. The method you choose will depend on how much oil you are collecting and the equipment you have available.

The Pail Exchange

This technique is where you get the restaurant to put the oil back into either it's original containers or into 5 gallon buckets. This method requires PROMT pickup of the oil. Health departments don't like it when a restaurant stores used oil in or near the kitchen. The restaurants really like it when you're Johnny On the Spot and pick it up the same night they change it out. This method is how the little guy beats out the big guys on service. This method works best for the beginner and for brewers processing under 50 gallons a week.


  • Works even with a small car not capable of carrying large volumes of oil.
  • Equipment costs are nearly zero.
  • The oil is a higher quality when it arrives at home.
  • The restaurants love it
  • It's hard for anyone to steal it if you pick it up right away


  • Usually requires you to pick up the oil when the restaurant changes oil.
  • Often requires more frequent pickups than other methods.
  • Does not scale up.


The Drum

Many people will place 35 gallon or 55 gallon drums in the back of the restaurant. There are three variations on how to get the oil from the drum to the house.

  • The Drum Swap
  • Pumping it up
  • Suck it up

The Drum Swap

The Drum Swap is exactly what it sounds like. When the drum at the restaurant is full a new one is brought and the full one taken home. It calls for some fundamental drum handling equipment like a truck or trailer mount crane to lift the drum onto the truck or trailer, and a hand truck designed for drums so you can move the drum to the crane. This system is best used when it is cold, and the oil is frozen. You have to have two drums for each location you collect. If you are only collecting a drum a week, this could be a good fit for you. If you have a dozen restaurants, then you probably want to look at the other methods.

Pump it up

This technique uses a pump of some sorts to pump the oil from the drum to another drum or tank on your truck or trailer. In general the more expensive the pump the faster and easier it will be to do. Different pumps have different advantages and disadvantages and you will need to find the pump that best fits your situation.

Suck it up

This technique uses a vacuum tank to draw the oil out of the collection container onto the truck. This method is often considered the best for high volume collectors. This way is fast and quiet, but the equipment is somewhat complex to build and it is not available ready to go.


Related Links:

Vacuum Sucker Tank

How to Collect Waste Vegetable OIl

Dana's WVO Sucker

Murphy's Machines Supersucker Plans