Peace Through Grease
A Waste Vegetable Oil fuel System for a Charleston, SC Based Shrimp Boat Using
Discarded Fryer Oil from a Margaritaville Restaurant – an Ongoing Case Study.
Chris Dixon: firstname.lastname@example.org, 843 822 5710
Randall Holton, M.D. email@example.com, 843 696 1941
Table of Contents:
I. Background – By Chris Dixon* Page 3
II. How a diesel engine works – The Simple Explanation. Page 5
III. Virgin Vegetable Oil, Waste Vegetable Oil and Biodiesel. Page 6
IV. Using VO as a Fuel. Page 10
V. The Margaritaville/Crosby’s Oil Collection System. Page 11
VI. The WVO System at Crosby’s Seafood. Page 19
VII. Running the Hailey Marie and other Diesels on WVO. Page 27
VIII. The Crosby’s System. Components and Costs. Page 30
IX. Grant/Financial Assistance Possibilities. Page 34
X. NOAA US Fish Consumption Report for 2009 Page 36
* Note: In the interest of removing first person confusion, the Background section was
authored by Chris Dixon. The rest of the document was authored by both Chris Dixon
and Randall Holton.
I. Background – By Chris Dixon.
Sometime in early 2009, Jimmy Buffett stopped into my office in Charleston, South
Carolina. I’m a writer by trade. I share a space at a dock and seafood operation near Folly
Beach that is owned by twin sisters Joanie Cooksey and Ellie Berry. The dock is also
homebase to the Hailey Marie, a 77-foot long shrimpboat owned and captained by
Joanie’s husband Neal Cooksey.
Jimmy was in the middle of a trip down the coast in a Diesel Ford surf and camper van
that he affectionately calls “The Fried Green Tomato.” The name arose because the
Forest Service Green Econoline underwent a conversion that allows it to run on filtered
waste vegetable oil (WVO) recovered from restaurant fryers. I had helped Jimmy with
the buildout on the van out and had a good deal of familiarity with the operation of WVO
fuel systems. It’s a subject that has fascinated me since 2003, when I wrote a story for the
New York Times about a growing number of people who had started powering their
vehicles with grease they had obtained free from restaurants eager to unload the stuff –
because previously they had to pay someone to come haul it off.
The Fried Green Tomato – WVO Powered Ford Sportsmobile Camper.
As we cruised through Folly Creek atop standup paddle surfboards and past the 77-foot
long Hailey Marie, Jimmy wondered aloud whether it might be possible to power a vessel
as big as a shrimpboat on WVO and to have that shrimpboat supply his Margaritaville
restaurant in Myrtle Beach. I knew that not only had Captain Neal run his truck on fryer
grease from a nearby restaurant, but that he had experimented with biodiesel and even
sunflower oil as fuels in the 12-cylinder Caterpillar engine in his boat. Neal was
desperate to reduce his fuel costs which had risen as high as $4 a gallon in the preceeding
year and were hovering at nearly $3 per gallon. Shrimping wasn’t making him much
money. In fact, he was barely breaking even.
Later that day, a mutual friend introduced Jimmy and me to a Folly Beach local named
Randy Holton, who had plenty of stored, filtered WVO to fill the tanks of the Green
Tomato. It seemed that Randy was one of the Charleston area’s ‘veggie gurus.’ He had
not only driven his Mercedes diesel over a hundred thousand miles on WVO, but cleaned
fryers at a number of local restaurants in exchange for oil that he then cleaned and burned
in his car. He even had a plan to take his house off the electrical grid with the help of a
WVO powered diesel generator he had imported from India.
We began hashing out thoughts on the Hailey Marie and a seemingly simple idea was
born: Transport WVO from Margaritaville in Myrtle Beach 100 miles south to Charleston
where the Hailey Marie docks. Transport shrimp from the Hailey Marie back up to
Margaritaville. As we were well into the stages of putting this project together, the
Deepwater Horizon oil blowout occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, giving even stronger
impetus to make this happen. This project gives hope that shrimpers and fishermen who
rely solely on the very fuels that nearly wiped out their way of life will find another way.
By saving huge amounts of money in fuel costs, shrimpers and fishermen can become
competitive with farm raised foreign seafood of questionable quality.
We’ve been incredibly fortunate to become involved in this project. Everyone has learned
a great deal – and we are still learning (that’s why we’re calling this “an ongoing case
study). The following pages will hopefully provide a solid foundation for organizations
and institutions to utilize waste vegetable oil in larger quantities - shrimp boats, delivery
trucks, busses and big generators.
We didn’t want to build anything that would require custom fabrication. In nearly every
instance, we have thus used “off the shelf” technology. All our equipment can be bought
from suppliers like Lowe’s, Northern Tool, online, or in the case of our trailer, straight
from a trailer dealer. We will also provide a general idea of costs you would incur to
build a robust system like ours.
As BP Oil was fond of saying in its alternative energy ad campaign from a few years
back, “It’s a start.”
II. How a diesel engine works – the simple explanation.
In the late 1800’s a brilliant German inventor
named Rudolph Diesel came up with a concept for
a very simple piston powered engine. A fine mist
of peanut or other vegetable oil would be sprayed
into a combustion chamber at tremendous pressure.
As the engine’s piston rose, the mixture of oil and
air would be compressed to 15-25 times the
pressure of the earth’s atmosphere in the
combustion chamber. This compression would
heat the fuel and air mixture to such a degree that it
would spontaneously explode. That explosion
would then drive a piston -- and thus an engine.
Mr. Diesel intially thought his engine would be a
fine tool for farmers and other folk who lived in
rural areas and could run their machines using a
homegrown fuel source. The technology soon
found uses in engines large enough to drive ships.
The combustion process of a diesel engine is somewhat similar to that of a gasoline
engine, but simpler because a lower compression gasoline engine requires a spark plug
and the accompanying electronics to cause its fuel/air mixture to explode. Because a
diesel doesn’t need a spark due its high compression ratio, and because its fuel simply
contains more energy units per gallon than gasoline, it is the most efficient internal
combustion engine available. Diesel engines generally generate less waste heat and run at
lower RPM’s than gasoline engines, but they generate far more torque. This makes them
ideal for tractors, big boats and trucks that need to generate lots of power from a dead
As gasoline engines were coming into widespread use around the turn of the century, it
was discovered that a byproduct of gasoline refining, a smoky oil could also be burned in
Rudolph Diesel’s engines. Diesel was said to have disapproved of this practice, yet that
petroleum-based fuel was nonetheless named in his honor.
The decades wore on and the petroleum industry was happy to let most folks forget that
diesel engines were designed to run (or that it was even possible to operate) on vegetable
oil. But not everyone forgot.
III. Virgin Vegetable Oil, Waste Vegetable Oil and Biodiesel.
In considering our green fuel options for the Hailey Marie using discarded fryer oil from
Margaritaville, there were two possibilities: 1. Refine Margaritaville’s waste vegetable oil
(WVO) into a fuel known as biodiesel. 2. Thoroughly clean Margaritaville’s fryer grease
and run it straight in the engine as WVO.
There’s a good deal of confusion out there with regards to biodiesel, Virgin Vegetable
Oil (VVO) and Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO). We’ll try to clear some of that up here and
lay down the reasons we chose straight WVO instead of biodiesel for this project.
A. Vegetable Oil (VO) and Biodiesel.
For purposes of this document, we’ll to refer to two different kinds of Vegetable
Oil (VO). The first is so-called Virgin Vegetable Oil (VVO) unused, pure
vegetable oil bought straight from a manufacturer and dumped into a fryer. The
second is Waste Vegetable Oil from those same frying operations (WVO).
Biodiesel is not VO per se. It is a further refined form of either VVO, WVO or
even rendered animal fat (lard).
1. Biodiesel and VO Similarities: Operation, perfomance, oil changes,
pollution, greenhouse gas emissions.
Biodiesel, VVO and WVO operate identically in a diesel engine to
petroleum diesel fuel itself. Depending on the source: canola, rapeseed,
sunflower, cotton, palm, etc., vegetable oil and biodiesel might carry a
slightly lower energy volume than petro diesel (ranging from equal energy
to 10 percent less than petroleum diesel), but not enough to have much of
an effect on performance.
A downside similarity between biodiesel and WVO is that the combustion
of both WVO and biodiesel can cause damaging sludge to build up in
engine oil more rapidly than petroleum diesel. Particulary if an engine is
run on VO before it is warmed up to operating temperature. There’s no
hard, set rule, but the owner of PlantDrive, the company that helped with
the buildout of Jimmy Buffett’s van, recommends both the use of synthetic
oil and a change interval of no more than 5000 miles – roughly twice to
three times as often as normal. This is of course, an added expense versus
running on normal petroleum diesel, but the cost is far, far offset by the
less expensive and cleaner fuel you’re burning in your engine.
Both biodiesel and VO produce far less air pollution than diesel fuel.
Essentially, this is because the simpler molecules burn more cleanly. Most
air pollutants are cut roughly in half – carbon monoxide by 43 percent,
hydrocarbons by 56 percent, particulates by 55 percent and sulfurs, a
particular problem with petroleum diesel, are reduced by 100 percent.
(This came from research for a story I wrote for The New York Times)
Anecdotally, Captain Neal Cooksey and his crew report fewer headaches,
being clearer headed, having more energy, and being far less grumpy
when the Hailey Marie is trolling on VO or biodiesel as opposed to
straight diesel. Instead of a noxious diesel odor, she instead trails an odor
of cooking french fries.
With regards to greenhouse gas emissions, both biodiesel and VO have a
pronounced advantage over diesel.
Here’s a short explanation as to why:
Whenever anything is burned, carbon from the burning fuel is combined
with oxygen from the atmosphere, and carbon dioxide is formed. The
carbon dioxide thus formed is released into the atmosphere. Carbon
dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas--its addition to the atmosphere is
undesirable because it contributes to global warming. The operative word
in the above sentence, and critical in the concept of carbon neutrality, is
Plants take CO2 from the atmosphere and via photosynthesis, release the
two oxygen atoms into the atmosphere and incorporate the carbon atom
into their structure. In other words, plants literally grow by linking
together carbons, which they remove from the atmosphere. So when plants
are burned , the carbon dioxide released is not actually “added to” the
atmosphere—the plant removed it from the atmosphere in the first place.
This is what is meant by “carbon neutral.”
Fossil fuels, on the other hand, are made from carbon-based plant and
animal matter (Coal, Petroleum) that has been sequestered away from the
atmosphere, deep in the earth, for millions of years. For this reason, when
fossil fuels are burned, the carbon dioxide produced is effectively “added”
to the atmosphere. So, the combustion of fossil fuels is not carbon neutral.
It adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and contributes to global
Note: The burning of VO and biodiesel are very nearly carbon neurtal.
We say “very nearly” in consideration that relatively small amounts of
petroleum are used in production of VO, WVO, and biodiesel. These
include petroleum to power agricultural equipment (tractors) and to
transport the crop to market (trucks), etc.
The bottom line issue with using VO as a fuel – and the reason many opt
for biodiesel instead - is the fact that unless it is heated to a considerable
degree, VO does not flow as freely as standard, petroleum-based diesel
fuel. It’s thicker, particularly when cold. This can cause problems with
clogged filters, overtaxed fuel injection pumps and incompletely burned
VO - which can create excess smoke and damaging deposits on engine
surfaces. To some, the solution is to chemically convert VO into a freer
flowing fuel called biodiesel.
Essentially, biodiesel is a liquid diesel fuel that is produced either from
vegetable oil or rendered animal fat. Fats and oils are both triglycerides.
However, at room temperature oils are liquid while fats are solid. A
triglyceride molecule is shaped like the capitol letter “E”, with the vertical
part of the E being glycerol and its three horizontal limbs fatty acids.
To make biodiesel, you need heat, a carefully controlled mixture of veggie
or animal oil (or a blend of the two), methyl alcohol (methanol) and lye
(the principal component to nasty, potent drain cleaners like Drano). In the
making of biodiesel, via a process call transesterification, the triglyceride
molecule is broken down and transformed to glycerine (a byproduct) and a
clear, nontoxic oil (biodiesel) that behaves very much like diesel fuel and
has good flow characteristics in far colder (though not frigid) weather than
Yet there are problems with biodiesel, especially for our larger scale
a. The chemicals. While refined biodiesel itself is nontoxic, the
chemicals used to make biodiesel, some of which remain in the
waste stream, are nasty and poisonous. It also takes a great deal of
fossil fuel energy to distill methanol while reacting lye creates
acrid fumes and can burn the skin off your body. If you don’t
carefully control the reactions while making biodiesel, there’s even
a risk of explosion. A big reason for our project was figuring out
how to create a “refinery” that gave us a ready supply of hundreds
of gallons of fuel, required no toxins, no petroleum and no
environmental permitting. We could not safely manufacture
biodiesel – or use any toxins, at Crosby’s Seafood, which sits
alongside a river and a teeming salt marsh.
b. The byproducts. Biodiesel production can produce a great deal
of glycerin. There is a market for the stuff – it’s used in making
soap and makeup - but not enough of a market to make the trouble
of dealing with it worthwhile.
c. Flow. While it’s true that biodiesel does flow more easily than
WVO, its flow still slows as it becomes more viscous in very cold
3. Vegetable Oil (VO).
Typically, VVO or virgin (clear) vegetable oil or hydrogenated (creamy)
vegetable oil shortening reaches restaurants in five gallon jugs. Large
foodservice operations may even receive their VVO in big tanker trucks.
It’s poured or pumped into the fryers and used until the cooks determine
it’s too dirty to keep using. At that point it’s poured or pumped out to
become WVO. When it’s heated up, even creamy VO becomes clear as
the waxy hydrogenates melt.
Until people came to the widespread realization that you could burn used
fryer grease in a diesel engine, WVO was considered trash. In fact, up to
several years ago, most restaurants had to pay to have the stuff hauled off.
Today, rendering companies will install a receptacle that holds hundreds
of gallons of WVO and pay restaurants generally between 25 and 75 cents
a gallon for the privilege of hauling it off. This collected oil from the
receptacles can be full of food particles and rainwater and is generally
Rendering companies then “cook” and partially filter this WVO to remove
water and large particles (french fries) and resell it for between $1.50 and
$1.75 a gallon. This semi-cleaned WVO is listed on the commodities
market as Yellow Grease. The vast majority of Yellow Grease ends up as
animal feed, while some is used for shampoo, hand cream, paint, lubricant,
asphalt or biodiesel. Thanks to the perverse logic of markets and
government subsidies, the U.S. actually ships large quantities of Yellow
Grease to China aboard hulking container ships that burn a thick, filthy
petroleum byproduct called bunker fuel at the rate of 120 gallons per mile.
The Yellow Grease is then refined into biodiesel in China, then shipped
again and sold at the pump in German filling stations.
Our idea was to catch homegrown shrimp that have been cooked with a
homegrown fuel (vegetable oil) and then use that homegrown fuel (waste
vegetable oil) to catch more shrimp. In short, Margaritaville’s oil was not
going to China to fuel BMW’s.
IV. Using VO as a Fuel.
The first thing we’ll address briefly is the issue of Virgin Vegetable Oil versus Waste
Vegetable Oil as a fuel. It’s easy to imagine that it would be far easier to simply use VVO
in an engine. It’s not full of melted chicken fat, water, french fries, fried shrimp and who
knows what else.
Instead, the problems with running VVO in an engine are cost, environment and ethics.
VVO costs more than diesel fuel per gallon (about $25 for a five gallon cube or $5 a
gallon). Then there’s the same problem producers of corn ethanol face. If you’re
producing a food crop to be used as fuel, soybeans or corn for example, you’re taking
away acreage that might actually feed people. Environmentally, you might also be
substituting crop acreage to land better suited to providing wildlife habitat and oxygen. In
some tropical countries, vast oil palm plantations have supplanted countless thousands of
acres of rainforest – all in the name of biodiesel.
With WVO, you don’t have these issues. The oil doesn’t need to be chemically converted
and it’s not a ‘virgin’ oil.
We were thus presented with a number of challenges:
1. Making it easy for Margaritaville to store their WVO for our use.
2. Transporting the oil.
3. Storing the oil at Crosby’s Seafood.
4. Cleaning the oil of particles and water.
5. Designing a system to heat the oil so that it would flow freely into the engine of
the Hailey Marie.
V. The Margaritaville/Crosby’s Oil Collection System.
Just how, exactly, were we supposed to go about regularly collecting several hundred
gallons of used cooking oil every week from Myrtle Beach and transporting it a hundred
miles down Highway 17 to Charleston? Were there any legal issues? What sort of trailer
and tank combination would we need? And what about the company, Carolina By-
Products, who we were initially told already had a paid contract to collect and haul
Margaritaville’s yellow gold and actually claimed to own Margaritaville’s WVO? These
were all questions’ we’d have to sort out.
Bottom line was that once “ownership” was sorted out, our system had to be simple, easy
to operate and able to quickly evacuate hundreds of gallons of WVO while remaining
small enough to trailer behind the Crosby’s shrimp delivery truck - a Ford diesel dually
4x4 F-250 pickup that piggybacks a freezer.
A. Legal Issues with transporting/storing/collecting VO.
Randy first looked into the legalities of hauling a trailer laden with a nontoxic
vegetable oil. There didn’t appear to be any real issues here. So what of storing it?
According to the South Carolina Dept of Health and Environmental Control,
because we are storing less than 1320 gallons onsite, we are in compliance with
the Pollution Control Act. However, 1320 gallons is the threshold for EPA
involvement and storage of more than 1320 gallons requires a Spill Prevention
Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) form prepared by an environmental
engineering firm. We were quoted $2500 just for the SPCC plan. Mandatory
compliance with its particulars, say a concrete catchment system, would have
been an additional expense.
Because someone was nearly always around our system and due to the vastly
increased cost, we opted to go with a smaller volume onsite storage system. Less
than 1320 gallons, no need for the paperwork and hassles.
In short, we would be legal. But before making a plan of your own to haul and
store VO, you would do well to put out a query to your own state’s DMV and
Department of Natural Resources. You may find that you’re legal without a
permit to haul and store X number of gallons/pounds, but above that number, you
need a special permit. You may also be required to use specific types of
With regards to Carolina By-Products. After a round of back and forth with the
management of the company that owns Broadway at the Beach, where
Margaritaville is located, it was determined that Carolina By-Products only
owned Margaritaville’s WVO after that WVO was poured into the Carolina By-
Products collection bin. Some restaurants may believe that they are exclusively
obligated to the rendering company that installed the collection bin. In our
experience, such contracts are fairly fast and loose and usually do little more than
confirm that once the oil enters the rendering company’s bin, it’s their oil. If we
had our own bins, it was still our oil. Problem solved – sort of. If you’re storing
your oil anywhere that might not be secure, you’d do well to padlock it. We have
had experience with cuththroat and opportunistic rendering companies siphoning
out our oil at spots other than Margaritaville.
B. Transporting the Oil.
What would be the most economical, safe way to both store and transport our oil?
We considered transport first. There seemed no end to the possibilities, but they
all presented various obstacles.
Randy Holton collects a couple of hundred gallons of oil every week from a
number of restaurants in the Charleston area. The oil is obtained in a classic barter
situation. He drives to the restaurants with which he has longstanding
relationships in his WVO powered Mercedes towing a small trailer that holds
around 25 standard issue 5-gallon restaurant fryer oil “cubies.” There, he drains
oil straight from the fryers into the “cubies” they arrived in. He then cleans the
fryers – a fairly dirty job – and makes them ready for new oil. Randy provides a
valuable, reliable service to these restaurants, they provide him with free fuel. But
the oil isn’t really free if you consider Randy’s labor – and this is a point of
consideration for anyone looking to collect WVO. Since there is now a market for
the stuff, you may have to pay for it, or you might offer a fryer cleaning service in
exchange for free WVO. Restaurants will be particular about this though. When
their fryers need cleaning, it has to be done – no waiting. Miss an appointment or
two, and they will look elsewhere. If your project is one like ours, which involves
helping support a struggling shrimping industry, you may, of course, be able to
convince a a restauranteur of the worthiness of giving you his/her oil anyway.
Once Randy’s oil reaches his own personal storage system, he has a very
functional and elegant method for storing his oil. This involves the use of big,
square 250-gallon containers known formally as IBC’s or Internataional Bulk
Containers. They’re also known as “totes.” These totes were originally used to
haul latex and assumedly other liquids on container ships. They’re forklift
compatible, light enough to be carried by hand empty (around 120-130lbs),
stackable up to three high (even when full), feature a big spigot at the bottom and
are, importantly, somewhat transparent, so you can see what kind of shape your
oil is in – allowing checks for water, debris and cloudiness.
Our first idea for transport of WVO was not the use of these totes, but rather a
trailer holding one or more used liquid propane canisters – the big variety that can
hold from 200 to even 1000 gallons. Such canisters are readily available for a few
hundred dollars and they are made of seemingly bombproof plate steel. Initial
thinking involved putting a vacuum pump on one or more of these canisters to
suck the oil out of our collection bins and to then trailer them to and from
Margaritaville. The logic behind a vacuum pump is sound – you don’t have to
worry about food deposits in your oil clogging or fouling a pump because no oil
actually flows through the pump – just air.
But there were a few problems with this idea.
First: The propane tanks are exceedingly heavy. A freezer truck loaded with 1000
lbs of shrimp, hauling a 2000 pound trailer loaded with a 1000 pound, 500 gallon
tank which was then filled with 3000 lbs of sloshing WVO could make for a
difficult, heavy drive. This is something you occasionally see vividly
demonstrated in the show “Ice Road Truckers.” When a big, half-full tanker either
crests a hill or is subjected to hard braking, the oil shifts hard to the front of the
truck. This dramatically changes handling characteristics and can be downright
Second: A propane trailer would have to be custom built. We wanted this project
to be “off the shelf.” Literally something anyone who could turn a wrench, dope a
pipe and handle a saw might be able to build.
We considered the transparent, plastic tank trailers you see hauling bug killer or
fertilzer behind lawn maintenance company trucks. But we reasoned that these
were really little different from the totes that Randy already knew worked well for
What if we used IBC totes mounted to a standard, off the lot, two-axle, self-
braking trailer that might be used to haul a car behind a pickup truck? We could
attach three totes to the trailer, plumb them together inline and use a pump to fill
them with oil. We would be able to see how full they were, what the oil looked
like, control the load by sight on a tank-by-tank basis, and all materials for
construction would be available off the shelf. You can’t place a hard vacuum on
these plastic totes, because unlike a steel tank, they would be sucked inward. So
we would instead need to utilize an inline electric pump to move the oil from
Margaritaville’s storage to the trailer and from the trailer to our storage tanks at
The oil could be pumped from Margaritaville’s storage to the trailer by way of a
tough, clear plastic tubing coupled to locking, quick release hose clamps. These
items are standard issue in the fueling world and are again, readily available. For
plumbing, we would use heavy duty valves coupled to standard PVC piping.
When the trailer was complete, it was a thing of beauty – an ingenious collection
of pipes, valves and totes, easily trailerable behind the freezer truck. The only
problem would have been tough to predict. Plumbing dope, which is used to seal
threaded pipe unions, is made to resist water. When it was instead used to hold
vegetable oil in the pipes, the dope basically disintegrated and left us with a series
of slow leaks. All threaded unions had be replumbed with simple Teflon tape that
wouldn’t be degraded by WVO. Also, any plastic will degrade over time in direct
sunlight. Take this into consideration.
The “Margaritaveg” Trailer
C. Storing and Collecting Oil at Margaritaville.
The backside of Margaritaville restaurant in Myrtle Beach held a large, wheeled
rectangular steel bin owned by Carolina By-Products. On a regular basis, the
company sent around a big tanker truck to suck the bin empty.
For our own collection system to work, our tank or tanks would need to be easy to
move, metal (WVO straight out of the fryers is very hot and would possibly
melt plastic), watertight and easy to pump out. A number of options were
considered before settling on a series of 55-gallon drums, each with a square
frame welded to its base with rolling casters to allow for transport. On the first
version, the casters were too small and they collapsed as the first test barrel was
filled. The oil alone in a full 55-gallon barrel weighs 418 pounds (7.6 pounds per
gallon). The other issue this brought up is that of inclines and bumps. A 400
pound barrel with a high center of gravity can tip easily. If your oil needs to go
downhill or over any sizeable bumps, consider using wheels at least 6 inches in
diameter, something with a lower center of gravity and perhaps even a brake of
some sort to stop it from rolling.
The lids of our 55-gallon drums had a steel flap door welded to them. Beneath the
door was a very rough grate to catch larger pieces of fried food. Turn back the
flap and pour in the used grease. The lid also held a receptacle for a clamp-on
hose to carry oil to the trailer. The oil would leave this receptacle through a pipe
that went down into the tank like a straw and ended with a gap several inches
above the base of the tank.
The storage of oil in the drums actually represents and initial settling and filtering
step. The idea behind this “straw and gap” method was that it would allow for
gunk to settle to the bottom and we could easily pump out the relatively clean
WVO on top. The problem was that our first prototype lid was not watertight
enough and rainwater bouncing up under the lid fouled the oil. Additionally, there
was so much ‘fryer gunk’ at the bottom of the drum that even with a several inch
gap, pumping it out clogged our pump motor.
Two solutions were called for. The first was a tighter fitting lid to keep out the
rainwater – and instructions to the restaurant staff to be sure that the lids were
always kept closed. The second was a less elegant, but more functional way to
pull the oil out of the drums. To pump the oil, we would simply suck the oil off
the top with a wand hooked to our pump hose. The oil flowing to our tanks would
be visible through the clear piping, we would simply pull out the wand the second
it reached dirty oil.
After we collected the clean oil, the 55-gallon drums could then be cleaned of
bottom gunk with a Shop-Vac and the gunk contents would then poured into the
bin owned by Carolina By-Products - they still have a use for even the dirtiest oil.
This brings up the idea that if you’re looking to clean a larger volume of WVO,
your restaurant may not want to kick their current ‘grease collector’ to the curb,
but rather simply not have them come as often.
You might also want to consider a filtering screen at the end of your wand to
catch larger particles that might clog a pump as you’re ‘wanding’ out your oil.
These are readily, commercially available.
A Filtering Wand Available from Plantdrive.com
Another WVO consideration is quality control. You put a waste bin behind a
restaurant, and there’s no telling what besides grease might go into it. It’s vital
that your foodservice partner be onboard with your WVO project, and explains
the basics of it to anyone who will be cooking with or disposing of the grease.
Otherwise you oil may be so junked up as to be nearly unuseable, or will require
For this reason, it might also make sense to ask a collector like Carolina
Byproducts how much they would charge to clean and filter your oil and sell it
back to you for the going market rate (again $1.50 to 1.75 as of this writing). If
you go down this route though, it’s vital that you have any oil they resell tested
for water and contaminants. Many rendering companies simply do a bare
minimum to turn their WVO into “Yellow Grease.” The stuff will still hold
A final component is weather. If your oil is going to sit out in potentially rainy
weather, make sure that the storage container is tightly sealed. If you plan on
pumping out WVO when it’s cold outside, you might run into problems as well.
As we’ve seen, cold VO does not flow well and it could easily clog your wand, or
be so solid that it simply won’t even pump. Our solution at Margaritaville this
winter will be to keep the filled WVO bins in a heated storage room just off the
kitchen. Otherwise, you might want to seriously consider installing a heating unit
on your collection bin and having it plugged in several hours before the arrival of
your oil collector – again these are readily available in the form of hot water
heater units or other heating elements available from companies like Plantdrive.
There are even heated suction wands, but these can be problematic. Think of
sucking a Slurpeee with a straw. When you get through with the liquid, you’re
pushing the straw down and simply creating multiple ‘holes’ in your ice.
The array of 55-gallon drums behind Margaritaville.
Preparing to pump oil to trailer.
Fastening the Clamp
Oil flowing into the trailer tank.
How much oil will you be likely to haul per week/month?
How much oil can you haul legally with your trailer?
How big a trailer/how much weight can your collection vehicle legally tow?
What is the status of your oil and is there a “contract” out on it already?
What sort of weather will you be dealing with?
VI. The WVO System at Crosby’s Seafood.
A. The Crosby’s Storage System.
The system at Crosby’s had to be simple, able to process hundreds of gallons of
oil in relatively short order and able to fit beneath the Crosby’s retail operation.
Crosby’s Seafood sits atop a set of standard issue wooden stilts about ten feet off
the ground and another five feet above the marsh. The underside of the building
was already partially occupied by a slew of sea kayaks owned by an onsite
outfitter called Coastal Expeditions. But adjacent to the kayaks was an unused
storage area that appeared to
have plenty of room for a
stacked, two-high system of
five 250-gallon totes.
It made the most sense to have
the two top totes hold the dirty
oil. This oil could then be
gravity fed down to the lower
totes through whatever
filtering/cleaning medium we
deemed the most useful. This
would prevent us from having
to use a set of pumps to filter
One thing to consider with a
storage system like this is
weight. How stable is the
ground in other words? Can
your floor or the earth below
hold two full totes (3800 lbs)
without collapsing or sagging?
Will you need a concrete pad?
Better be sure.
Four of five tanks beneath Crosby’s Seafood.
The top tanks are for dirty oil, the lowers for clean.
B. Cleaning/Dewatering Our Oil. And a word about oil types.
Every diesel engine is protected by an onboard fuel filter to remove even the
tiniest particulates from the diesel fuel. Likewise, WVO fuel systems have an
onboard fuel filter within the WVO line to protect the engine from particulates in
the WVO. This is particularly important because WVO as it comes from the
fryers, contains such large amounts of both microscopic and macroscopic
If measures are not taken to clean the WVO prior to pouring it into the vehicle’s
tank, the inline WVO filter will clog almost immediately and have to be replaced.
In order to prolong the life of the onboard WVO fuel filter, only very clean oil
should be introduced into the WVO tank.
Cleaning and dewatering is simply the most important element to operating on
WVO. The oil must be free of even the tiniest particulates, water and other gunk
to operate properly in an engine. There are several ways this can be accomplished,
each with its own plusses and minuses: settling, filtering, and the centrifuge. The
oil MUST also be dewatered. This can be a problematic issue. It’s not always easy
to tell by sight if there’s water in your VO, but if it’s not gone, you run the risk of
serious damage to engine components from your injector pump to injectors,
pistons and valves. To check for water, the easiest method is simply to pour small
amount of oil into a pan and heat it up. If the oil crackles and bubbles, you’ve got
The below images show “cubies” filled with clean oil and one with a
gunky, watery sludge settled out at the bottom.
As it sounds, this is the simplest way to clean WVO. You collect it and let
the water (which is heavier than oil) and other particles sink to the bottom
of a storage tank. Then your top layer then becomes your quality oil. This
is how Randy Holton filters on his own personal system. A large settling
array can be set up with a series of tanks – each drains successively down
to the other and as it passes through and spends days in each tank, the oil
becomes progressively cleaner until it eventually flows to the last tank.
Then as a last line of defense, you install a series of off-the-shelf ‘spin on’
filters (more on filters below). Oil is then pumped into either a final
holding tank, or the tank on your vehicle.
This method is simple and relatively effective.
The downside to settling is that it requires a large footprint of tanks and it
can take a long time for oil contaminants to settle out – particularly if the
weather is chilly. In some cases, water molecules become suspended in the
oil and become essentially impossible to remove through settling alone.
Filters are often used in conjunction with settling, and in nearly all cases
WVO will be filtered at some point in its trip to your fuel injectors – even
if it’s only just before passing through your engine’s own fuel filter. WVO
fuelers often use filters in succession – starting with a mesh screen or a
reusable, washable cotton filter to remove the big stuff and then moving
down from a relatively big 300 micron filter, 30 micron, and then even
down to ten micron or less. The period at the end of this sentence is about
400 microns wide, so a ten micron filter is catching very small particles.
This is vital because diesel fuel injector nozzles are mere microns wide.
Any contamination can clog them, and even particles small enough to pass
through can eventually erode the nozzle tips like a sandblaster.
A major problem with filtration is that it’s dirty to replace filters and over
time it’s expensive. You can clean and reuse the big cotton filters, another
dirty job, but not the smaller ones.
Water gets into WVO when a collection bin has been left out open in the
rain, or particularly watery foods have been cooked and the oil is then
allowed to cool rapidly. There are filters that separate water from fuel.
Diesel engine boat captains and many drivers have them installed. They
can separate most of the water from WVO – but not all. There is some
debate too, over whether every last molecule of water even needs to be
removed from WVO fuel. There’s a line of thinking that the released
steam from minute amounts of water is not detrimental and might actually
clean combustion chambers. As a practical matter, Randy Holton has run
his five cylinder turbodiesel Mercedes well over 100,000 miles on WVO –
some of which surely has at least small quanties of water – with no ill
This brings us to the solution we found for fueling the Hailey Marie.
3. The Centrifuge.
Intially, our thoughts were that we would be able to settle and then filter
our “Margaritaveg” sufficiently underneath Crosby’s seafood (the building
is elevated). But then we realized that in a week of operation, the Hailey
Marie might burn between 500 and 1000 gallons of fuel. The reality of our
fairly small footprint and the need to economically process so much oil led
us to the purchase of an amazing device called a centrifuge.
Our centrifuge, essentially a bowl within a bowl, works by pouring oil into
a spinning inner bowl (rotor) which is spinning at a tremendous rate of
speed – in our case 6000 RPMs. The oil is thus subjected to a centrifugal
force somewhere on the order of 3800 times the force of gravity. The
dirtiest stuff in the oil – water and macro and microscopic solids - is slung
to the side of the rotor where it sticks. The clean oil then overflows the
rotor, is slung into the outer bowl and then drains down into our lower
holding tank. The water basically steams out of it or is collected in the
spinning bowl as a greasey, buttery goo. These solids eventually have to
be cleaned out of the rotor, which can be accomplished with a plastic or
metal scraper, some paper towels and perhaps a bottle of grease cutter.
This cleaning needs to happen every couple of days to every hour –
depending on how dirty and full of gunk your WVO is. If the VO is full of
fats and minutely suspended water, the rotor will fill up in an hour to
several hours with buttery sludge. If it’s relatively water and fat free, the
rotor will remain cleaner longer. You may be able to run the centrifuge all
day before cleaning – at which point the walls of your rotor will hold tiny,
There are three basic kinds of centrifuges: small units about the size of a
two-liter bottle that can be used to spin relatively small amounts of oil.
These can be had for a few hundred dollars. Units the next size up have a
bowl about the size and appearance of a brake drum and depending on the
orifice used to control their flow rate, can spin 15-20 or more gallons an
hour, run all day and cost in the $1500-3000 or so range. They can be set
up to process more oil per unit of time, but the slower the flow the cleaner
the oil. Then there are big, self-cleaning industrial units that are around the
size of a small Shop Vac and can process as much as three gallons a
minute. These run into the $4-10,000 range.
In the interest of savings and not overspending on technology unfamiliar
to us, we went with the middle option. Our “Raw Power” centrifuge was
purchased from WVOdesigns.com. It has a 1HP electric motor and a
computerized control system that monitors the funtion and RPM’s of the
motor, and it has worked out well. The only issue is that it requires fairly
regular cleaning and inspecting. We also installed a 1000 Watt heater that
heats the incoming dirty WVO before it enters the centrifuge. This
ensures a better flow of oil and better water evaporation.
One unexpected outcome of using the centrifuge was that when we ran the
centrifuge on fairly dirty oil, the solid food particles were actually big
enough to occasionally clog the orifice that meters the oil to 15-20 gallons
per hour as it enters the centrifuge drum. We had hoped to design a system
that does not rely on any filters besides those already built into the Hailey
Marie, but this now may be unrealistic. The answer we’re testing now will
be to install a small, clear settling bowl filter that will only filter particles
big enough to clog an orifice about half as wide as a pencil. Such a filter
will be easily cleaned and should clog very infrequently. We additionally
designed the system so that we could pump our oil back through the
system so it could make multiple passes through the centrifuge if we so
As it stands now, our centrifuge is pulling out all visible water and we
have noticed no operational problems with our centrifuged oil either in
Randy Holton’s car or the Hailey Marie.
Below is a cutaway of a pair of centrifuges from WVOdesigns.com. Note the ‘bowl
within a bowl’ design. The inner bowl spins the oil, separating out the particles. The
clean oil then spills out into the larger bowl and into the ‘clean oil’ tank.
The wall of the centrifuge rotor covered with superfine particles
cleaned from the Margaritaville oil.
Our centrifuge with heater.
A smaller 55-gallon setup of tanks and centrifuge from WVODesigns.com
4. Gettting the Oil to the Boat.
Pump machine, valves and clear hose.
With cleaned oil in the bottom
totes, we would then need to
consider how to get the oil to
the Hailey Marie at the
adjacent dock. We considered
55-gallon drums, a wheeled
250-gallon tote and even
utilizing our collection trailer
by backing it up to the boat. In
the end, we set up a system of
about 200 feet of 2-inch inside
diameter PVC piping that
would carry oil to the
shrimpboat directly from the
totes, and a switch operated
electric pump/hose setup
identical to that on our
collection trailer. The switch
is located on the dock next to
the boat. The primary concern
we faced, and still may yet
face, is pumping the WVO
through these long pipes when
the temperature plunges. But
we feel confident that even if
the flow is somewhat reduced,
the oil should still reach the
boat. The Hailey Marie
operates generally from April
to October, not in the dead of
winter. This should be a
consideration for anyone
hoping to use WVO all year
long in a colder climate. It’s
possible to buy fuel hose with
heated line. Were we
operating in New England,
something like this would
probably be prerequesite.
The dockside WVO pump outlet
for the Hailey Marie at Crosby’s.
5. Oil Types.
There are basically two types of VO you are going to encounter. The first
is straight, clear non-hydrogenated vegetable oil – in boxes labeled
“Canola Oil,” “Peanut Oil,” or generically “Clear Fryer Shortening.” The
second is what is referred to as “Creamy Liquid Shortening.” This is oil
that has been partially hydrogenated – injected with hydrogen gas.
Restaurants often use hydrogenated oil and because it is typically more
stable and less smoky to cook with than clear oil.
WVO from either hydrogenated or clear oil will burn fine in a diesel
engine. The problem with the hydrogenated oil is that it does not flow as
well as clear oil at lower temps. At temperatures around 80 degrees F and
below, the waxy hydrogenates in the oil will begin to settle out and they
quickly can clog fuel lines and fuel filters. The solution is again, heat.
There are even heated filters available. If you’ll be operating in cold
climates on partially hydrogenated oil, a heated filter is a good idea.
VII. Running the Hailey Marie and other Diesels on WVO – What’s Required.
A. Running any engine on WVO.
To run properly in any diesel engine, in addition to having a separate, dedicated
inline WVO filter (in addition to a diesel filter), your WVO needs to be pre-
heated. How much it should be heated is subject to debate. Some say it should be
heated as high as 300 degrees Fahrenheit while most, including those who have
built out the system for Jimmy Buffett’s vehicles say 160 degrees or so will give
WVO approximately the same viscosity as petroleum diesel fuel. With Buffett’s
”Green Tomato,” we’ve tended in the 160-190 degree direction – in part because
this is around the operating temperature the engine coolant reaches - and the
system is heated in part by engine coolant. Also, the super high compression of
the diesel injection pump (a mammoth 1700 pounds per square inch) heats the oil
tremendously anyway. We have thus far noted no ill effects on Buffett’s Ford
engines at this heat level. Nor has Randy Holton had issues in over a hundred
thousand miles of veggie driving with his Mercedes sedan.
If WVO is not preheated, it may seem to run fine in a diesel engine, but as has
been previously stated, slow-flowing, unheated oil may cause fuel starvation,
unseen damage to your fuel injector pump, smoky operation, carbon deposits and
stress to the engine components.
To accomplish this preheating, most WVO drivers install a two-tank fuel system.
The first tank, often the stock tank, is maintained as the standard petroleum diesel
tank. The engine is started on regular diesel, and brought up to operating
temperature. A separate tank for veggie oil which is usually retrofitted and is
heated by a pipe that circulates engine coolant (what most folks know as
antifreeze) through a heat exchanger within the veggie tank. Many also choose to
install a heated filter and even heaters on fuel lines running from the veggie tank
to the engine’s fuel injectors. These can help speed the switchover from diesel to
When you shut down your WVO operating engine, you don’t want to leave WVO
in your fuel lines. This is because the cool/cold WVO can clog fuel lines and
injectors. The solution is what’s known as a PURGE. The fuel system is switched
back over to diesel for the final 2-3 minutes of operation. This ensures that the
engine will start reliably because petroleum diesel will flow more freely than VO
if it’s cold. If the engine is already warmed up and will be shut down for a short
time, such a purge is generally unnecessary.
Jimmy Buffett’s vehicles utilize an automatic, computer operated switcher made
by a company called VO Control. It’s a slick little box that monitors things like
coolant temp, VO temp, VO tank level and fuel pressure. When the VO reaches a
predefined temperature, the system kicks in. Then when the motor is switched off,
it will perform an ‘autopurge’. The engine runs on for a few minutes, even
without the key in the ignition until the WVO is replaced with diesel, and then
Randy Holton, has a much simpler system. He monitors the temperature of his
WVO with a simple dashboard gauge and then switches over to and from WVO
manually. Of course, he has to remember to manually purge as well, or face a
difficult to start car the following morning.
There are a number of reliable companies that provide VO retrofitting equipment
in kit form. We have relied mostly on Plantdrive, a company operated out of the
San Francisco Bay Area. Other companies with solid reputations include
Greasecar and Golden Fuel Systems.
VO Control on Jimmy’s Van from Plantdrive.com.
B. Running the Hailey Marie on WVO.
In order to create a WVO fuel heating system for the Hailey Marie we had a few
things our favor.
First: The boat already had four different fuel tanks. We could simply
modify one to hold the vegetable oil.
Second: It gets very hot in the engine room when the boat is operating –
typically well over 100 degrees. This would help to keep the WVO free
flowing before it ever even went into the Hailey Marie’s fuel system.
Third: The heated fuel line coming out of the designataed WVO tank
could be easily routed to coil around the pipe that carried hot water from
the Hailey Marie’s engine to the ocean.
To activate the WVO system on the Hailey Marie, all that was necessary was the
use of a preexisting valve that let captain Neal switch from one tank to the next. If
he determines a problem running on either diesel or WVO, can easily switch from
one tank to the other. Very easy access to fuel lines also facilitated the addition of
a separate WVO filter on the WVO fuel line.
C. Blending WVO and Diesel.
In his first WVO runs in the Hailey Marie Neal basically pumped his WVO into
his diesel tank and let the two mix together. This was done because Neal had not
used his second tank in quite some time and was concerned about preexisting crud
and buildup in it. Diesel and WVO will blend together and the diesel can serve to
both thin the WVO and separate out water. In cold weather though, this is less
advisable because fuel lines from the diesel tank are not heated and problems can
be encountered with cold VO clogging fuel filters. Moving forward, Neal’s going
to keep his tanks separate so he can monitor the Hailey Marie’s operation on both
There are countless postings on biodiesel and WVO websites from people who
thin their WVO with diesel, acetone and even gasoline. This too is possible, but
the effects are anecdotal and we could never mix these liquids into our tanked fuel
beneath Crosby’s because it would become a toxic substance and thus Illegal.
D. Obtaining your oil – some questions to answer.
1. Where is your target restaurant’s oil going now?
2. Is there a contract or other agreement – pair or unpaid - for it?
3. Does the collector of their current oil filter/etc? If so would it make
more sense to simply buy it back already cleaned/filtered?
4. What are the quantities you’ll get on a weekly or monthly basis?
Remember that whatever virgin oil is poured into the fryers will be
reduced by food absorption and drips to around half of what was poured
into the fryers by the time it has become ready to collect up WVO.
VIII. The Crosby’s/Margaritaville System. Components and Costs.
Note: This is not meant to be a hard/fast guide to prices. Much of your cost will depend
on local sourcing, labor costs, etc.
A. Materials and labor completed by contractors other than Randall Holton.
1. WVO Storage System at Centrifuge.
Totes available from goodgrease.com and other suppliers.
Includes 5 IBCs @ $190.00 ea; plumbing connecting IBCs to centrifuge
2. Pumps. Monster Gear Pump from WVODesigns.com x 3.
One for trailer. One spare. One for pumping oil to Hailey Marie and from
bottom to top totes. Includes pump; two 2 inch ID polypropylene valves;
four 1! inch polypropylene cam-connections.
Materials: $505.00 each x 3 = $1515.
3. Hose. Clear PVC Suction Hose From USplastics.com.
Cost: $1.75 per foot.
4. Locking Hose Couplers from WVODesigns.com or
$7.40 $2.88 $2.53 $6.73
5. Centrifuge and Heater.
Extreme Raw Power. 6000 RPM, 3800G-Force Model with computer
controller. From WVODesigns.com
1000Watt Bolt on Oil Heater from WVODesigns.com
Materials: $1747.00. (Includes centrifuge, motor and heater.)
6. Double Axle Trailer from Carry-On Trailer.
From Bubba’s Truck and Trailer, North Charleston, SC.
Cost of bare trailer: $3113.70.
Additional Modifications to haul three totes and plumbing: plumbing,
lumber, valves. Includes three IBCs @ $190 ea; one pump @ $450.00
with 1 ! inch ID polypropylene cam-connections; four 2 inch ID
polypropylene valves @ $40.00 ea; 2 inch ID plumbing and fittings;
7. 55 Gallon Drum with Modifications. From Port City Welding in
Wilmington, N.C. x 8.
Labor and materials from Port City Welding:
$195 ea. X 8 = $1560.00.
9. Fuel Piping: Dock to Hailey Marie.
Approximately 200ft pipeline under dock:
Includes 2 inch ID pvc pipe and fittings, materials to suspend pipeline
from dock, 2 inch polypropylene valve and 1! inch polypropylene cam-
connection at end of pipeline. Bought at Lowe’s and Charlston Rubber and
10. Centrifuge table: Wood bought from Lowe’s.
11. Hose at end of pipeline for fueling boat.
Includes 20 ft of 1! inch ID reinforced plastic hose and two 1! inch
Includes wiring centrifuge, centrifuge heater, pipeline pump, two electrical
outlets, switch at pipeline pump, switch at pipeline terminal, and a four
Materials and labor: $1275.00.
13. Augmentation of the Hailey Marie to run on WVO:
Labor and materials: $2500.00.
TOTAL Labor and Materials:
B. Pure Labor Hours: Randall Holton.
Below is a breakdown of labor hours spent by Randall Holton on actual
construction of above items. These hours in many cases, do not include things
like a trip back to Lowe’s to obtain a different gasket when one doesn’t fit, a trip
to Wilmington to discuss various veggie oil storage systems, or ongoing phone
conversations with Joanie Cooksey or representatives at WVOdesigns.com.
Labor of assembly and installation: 9.0 hrs
2. Centrifuge table:
Labor: 2.0 hrs
3. WVO storage system at centrifuge:
Labor: 17.5 hrs.
4. Fuel Piping: Dock to Hailey Marie.
Labor: 53.5 hrs.
5. Pipeline pump:
Labor: 4 hrs.
6. Hose at end of pipeline for fueling boat.
Labor: .5 hrs.
Labor: 37 hrs.
TOTAL Hours Randall Holton.
IX. Grant/Financial Assistance Possibilities.
Note: Much, though not all of the below is fisheries specific grant information
that can help with projects like this one. It was provided by Amber Von Harten,
Fisheries Specialist with Clemson University. Her contact information is at the
end of this document.
NOAA Fisheries, Office of Management & Budget, Financial Services Division:
1. Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Program:
Primarily for fisheries development projects and the deadline for
applications was yesterday. This funding can be pretty “iffy” because
Congress does not always appropriate the actual funds for this grant
program. For next year, see:
2. Cooperative Research Program:
This funds fisheries research that involves commercial fishermen in the
data collection process. This would be a good fit if you can find a project
that fits with one of the funding priorities and can find the right researcher
to partner with. See: http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/grants/crp.htm
This is a similar type program. See:
4. Capital Construction Fund:
Primarily for purchasing or retrofitting fishing vessels. See:
USDA Grant Programs:
1. Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program:
2. Rural Business Opportunity Grant Program:
This is primarily a technical training and assistance program that could work
with you on developing your business. Therefore, the grant application
could not come from you. It would have to come through a government
agency (like a University, Sea Grant, local government, etc.) in partnership
with your business and possibly other similar businesses. See:
3. Value-added Producer Grant: See:
4. Renewable Energy grants:
Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education, Southern Region:
1. Producer Grant:
Funds available for conducting research or marketing projects related to
sustainable agriculture. Fishermen are eligible to apply for these funds.
2. Sustainable Community Innovation Grant:
This program funds local strategies that are intended to link sound farm and
nonfarm economic development with agricultural and natural resource
management, especially partnerships between entrepreneurs and others to
promote value-added products, etc. This is something you could partner on
with SCDNR, SC Sea Grant, etc.
For more information contact:
Amber Von Harten
S.C. Sea Grant Extension Program
P.O Box 189 Beaufort, SC 29901
PLEASE NOTE NEW PHONE/FAX #:
P: 843.255.6060 ext 112
NOAA Seafood Consumption Report.
Contact: Monica Allen 301-713-2370
U.S. Seafood Consumption Declines Slightly in 2009
The average American ate 15.8 pounds of fish and shellfish in 2009, a slight
decline from the 2008 consumption figure of 16.0 pounds, according to
a NOAA Fisheries Service "###$%&'($%)**$+),-!report out today.
The U.S. continues as the third-ranked country for consuming fish and
shellfish, behind China and Japan. In total, Americans consumed a total of
4.833 billion pounds of seafood in 2009, slightly less than the 4.858 billion
pounds in 2008.
Shrimp remained the top seafood item of choice for the United States at 4.1
pounds per person, a level unchanged since 2007.
The average 15.8 pounds consumed per person in 2009 was composed of
11.8 pounds of fresh and frozen finfish and shellfish, 3.7 pounds of canned
seafood, primarily canned tuna, and 0.3 pounds of cured seafood, such as
smoked salmon and dried cod. The overall decline in average consumption
per American was due to a decrease in canned seafood consumed.
“With one of the highest consumption rates in the world, the U.S. has the
ability to affect the world fish trade,” said Eric Schwaab, NOAA assistant
administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “NOAA supports rebuilding
and sustaining wild fisheries populations and building a strong aquaculture
program that can help the U.S. fishing industry gain a larger share of the
U.S. market. Americans should know that buying American seafood
supports our economy, as well as the high environmental and safety
standards our fishermen meet.”
Most of the seafood consumed in the U.S. was not caught in U.S. waters.
About 84 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, a
dramatic increase from the 66 percent just a decade ago.
Farmed seafood, or aquaculture, comprises almost half of the imported
seafood. Aquaculture production outside the U.S. has expanded dramatically
in the last three decades and now supplies half of the world’s seafood
demand, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture
America’s aquaculture industry, though vibrant and diverse, currently meets
less than ten percent of U.S. demand for seafood. Most of the U.S.
aquaculture industry is catfish, with marine aquaculture products like
oysters, clams, mussels and salmon supplying less than two percent of
American seafood demand.
“This report demonstrates there is room for the U.S. aquaculture industry to
grow,” said Schwaab. “NOAA is working to develop a new national policy
for sustainable marine aquaculture that will help us narrow the trade gap and
strengthen the entire fishing industry in this country.”
NOAA’s Fisheries Service has been calculating the nation’s seafood
consumption rates since 1910 to keep consumers and the industry informed
about trends in seafood consumption and trade. The information is published
every year in NOAA’s Fisheries Service annual report, Fisheries of the
United States, which is now available online.
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's
environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to
conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us on
U.S. Annual Per Capita Consumption of Fish and Shellfish
Pounds of Edible Meat
Year! Fresh and frozen! Canned! Cured! Total!
2005! 11.6! 4.3! 0.3! 16.2!
2006! 12.3! 3.9! 0.3! 16.5!
2007! 12.1! 3.9! 0.3! 16.3!
2008! 11.8! 3.9! 0.3! 16.0!
2009! 11.8! 3.7! 0.3! 15.8!
U.S. Annual Per Capita Consumption of Canned Fishery Products
Pounds of Edible Meat
Year! Salmon! Sardines! Tuna! Shellfish! Other! Total!
2005! 0.4! 0.1! 3.1! 0.4! 0.3! 4.3!
2006! 0.2! 0.2! 2.9! 0.4! 0.2! 3.9!
2007! 0.3! 0.2! 2.7! 0.4! 0.3! 3.9!
2008! 0.1! 0.2! 2.8! 0.4! 0.4! 3.9!
2009! 0.2! 0.2! 2.5! 0.4! 0.4! 3.7!
U.S. Annual Per Capita Consumption of Certain Fishery Items
Pounds of Edible Meat
Year! Fillets and Steaks! Sticks and Portions! Shrimp!
2005! 5.0! 0.9! 4.1!
2006! 5.2! 0.9! 4.4!
2007! 5.0! 0.9! 4.1!
2008! 4.8! 1.0! 4.1!
2009! 4.6! 0.7! 4.1!