Locking Cap Aims to Prevent Grease Thefts

By Tina Caparella

Grease theft. Those two words make any renderer or used kitchen grease collector shutter.

As the demand for biodiesel has grown over the years and yellow grease prices have surged, grease theft has been on the rise. The purity of used kitchen grease and its relative low viscosity have made it a prime and easy target for thieves. Some larger holding tanks can be vacuumed empty in just minutes.

With a typical fast food restaurant producing 200 to 300 pounds of used kitchen grease per week, and a large rendering company servicing hundreds of these locations regionally, the value of this at-risk commodity can range into the tens of thousands of dollars each week. When larger facilities are serviced and a national outlook is taken, used kitchen grease theft potential to a renderer can be astronomical.

Although many states have laws in place to try and prevent grease theft, with state and local government budgets being slashed, any laws in place are very seldom enforced. Combine that with prosecutors and law enforcement having bigger criminal issues to deal with and it appears the industry has its work cut out for it as it tries to prevent thieves from taking what has become a hot commodity.

Shielding oil from theft while allowing it to be accessed by those authorized can be a challenge. But those who collect used cooking oil from restaurants with internal tanks now have a new tool that so far is preventing thefts.

Several years ago, Bruce DeMent of Kastalon, Inc., was talking with long-time friend Dave Dykstra, Mahoney Environmental, and a few other renderer colleagues about the grease theft problem. Having previously been involved with fats, oils, and grease projects, DeMent decided to come up with a solution, trying different designs “until something worked.”

What emerged was the Kastalon Sekure Kap.

The pound-and-a-half device is made of iron and is comprised of three pieces: a fitting that permanently attaches to the wall/pipe of the tank, a removable cap, and a lock either supplied by Kastalon or the end user. The compact cam-lock cap is designed to fit a two-inch hose but can be built to fit other sizes, is very durable, and is easy for grease collectors to remove with the turn of a key.

Although DeMent admits nothing is totally theft proof, the Sekure Kap is extremely tamper resistant. A few attacks have left some locks damaged and needing replacing, but to date, no grease has been stolen.

Dykstra backs up that claim, saying that because the design prohibits access to the lock; bolt cutters are useless.

“People don’t have the time to get this thing off,” he stated.

Mahoney Environmental has installed dozens of Sekure Kaps throughout its Midwest region. The company has used many types of locks or security tags to deter would-be thieves, only to find them cut or broken off. In addition, one of the problems created by theft of used cooking oil is spillage on the customer’s property, creating a liability. According to Brad Baird, vice president of Restaurant Services at Mahoney Environmental, the company is pleased with the performance of the theft prevention caps.

“So far, I can say that there has been no reported successful attempts to remove the cap and material, though there have been attempts,” said Baird. “The amount of time and effort it would take to get past a well-designed Sekure Kap would surely bring attention to any thief.”

Dave Olson, procurement manager for Baker Commodities’ Phoenix, AZ, division, also noted that the cap acts as a deterrent and secures the grease. At this time, the company only has a handful of caps installed in California and Phoenix with about four months of experience and is taking a wait and see approach. But Olson said the cap is easy to install, the drivers have no difficulty removing the cap and accessing the grease, and no thefts have occurred on those tanks using the Sekure Kaps.

While both renderers are pleased with the new theft prevention device, they are continuously looking at various approaches to securing raw materials and are always open to new, innovative ideas, such as the one Kastalon has brought to the industry.

Kastalon, Inc., based in Alsip, IL, has applied for a patent on its Sekure Kap and all indications are it will go through. The cap has a simple and straight-forward design, is manufactured onsite, and is zinc plated to ensure weather and environment resistance.

Tech Topics – June 2010 RENDER | back