Lubricant Storage and Handling Practices
by David Doyle, CLS, OMA I, OMA II
General Manager, Tribology

Proper lubricant storage and handling practices are important for protecting the integrity of product and consequently the equipment the lubricants are used in. Poor storage and handling practices can cause products to deteriorate or become contaminated, creates waste and safety hazards. Compromised lubricants due to poor storage and handling practices can be the source of contamination issues which will do harm to equipment assets.

Storage space should be adequate for organization and environmental control. Product stored, dispensing equipment, secondary containers, and spill cleanup material ought to be properly organized, inventoried, and kept in their proper storage location. The condition of your storage space should be inspected routinely, not just when accessing product from containers.

Lubricant inventories can be established for storage volumes based on packaging, consumption rate, and storage stability. Minimum inventory levels should take delivery times into consideration. Inventoried product should be properly labeled. Ensure information is clear for product application, storage practices, transfer apparatus and transfer method. Some facilities will color code stored product for equipment application or compatibility to reduce improper product application.

Be aware of product shelf life by knowing the storage stability of the products on site. Do not exceed shelf life. Though generally not an issue for premium oils, some lubricant can stratify after a period of time, especially in colder temperatures. Rotate inventory so oldest product is used first. Product labeling should include delivery dates.

Good indoor storage ought to provide adequate environmental control for moisture, temperature, and cleanliness. Limit exposure to excessive temperatures. Storage of lubricants used in clean systems requiring an ISO cleanliness rating for equipment operational health need special storage and handling practices to prevent contamination when new oil is added, which should include filtering when adding to equipment.

Outdoor storage may require reduced inventory storage time in order to protect product integrity. Do not let drums stored outside sit upright where dirt and water can collect on top of the drum. Laying drums on their sides with the bungs positioned downward and stored on racks is best. At the very least for outdoor storage, tilt drums at an angel with the bung edge elevated to avoid water settling on the top of the drum. Drums should be covered when stored outdoors. Sensitive product should not be stored outdoors. Visually inspect whenever possible.

Ensure bulk storage is properly cleaned if switching from one product type to another product type. Breathers are important for keeping out contaminants in bulk storage, and allowing air to breathe in and out as fluid is being dispensed from bulk storage or added to bulk storage. Bulk storage tanks kept outside should have a water draw installed in the bottom of the tank.

Spill cleanup and containment material is an important component in proper lubricant storage. Have spill cleanup material readily available, stored properly, and inventoried. Have proper disposal containers for used spill cleanup material. Provide adequate containment in case of package container or bulk storage leakage or spills. There are many readily available commercial products that make this area of lubricant storage and handling easy to manage with a little planning.

It’s important to keep compatible products in the same location. Keep incompatible products in different areas. Consolidating inventory will make this easier. It will also make inventory control and storage easier. Many lubricant formulations can serve multiple applications. Work with your lubricant supplier to reduce the different types of products where possible. Storage of coolants should be kept in a separate area or facility to prevent possible contamination, especially if there is a risk of using a secondary container or transfer apparatus that is meant for oil, and vice versa.

When transferring or dispensing product clean bung areas and spouts before opening. Make sure dispensing equipment is clean. When finished properly replace lids and bungs after opening. Ensure hoses and valves are sealed when not in use. Word of caution, when cleaning containers, spouts, and bung areas, shop towels can create and deposit a significant amount of fiber lint.

When using secondary containers or dispensing equipment to transfer or add fluid to equipment ensure they do not have oil residue from an incompatible product. This can be a common source of cross contamination. It’s best to use dispensing equipment for products that are compatible or dedicated to the product type. Funnels should be treated in the same manner as secondary transfer containers. Ensure secondary containers t or dispensing equipment are stored properly. Improvising adhoc secondary containers and funnels generally leads to a variety of contamination issues for new fluid being added to equipment.

These are just some general guidelines and this topic can be the source of extensive subject matter and procedural review. The intention is to provide some helpful information that can improve management measures and product reliability. There are many existing facilities where their procedures in this area are world class.