Pump Lubrication Basics – Part 3: Lubricant Storage

Many facilities underestimate the importance of proper lubricant storage and handling to avoid bearing failure, replacement and downtime costs. The more varied your operating conditions (such as when water, heat and fine particulate matter such as dirt and manufacturing debris are present) the more these fluid and airborne contaminants can affect your equipment’s reliability and lifespan. Proper lubrication is not only about using the right amount of lubricant at the right time, it’s about the storage and handling of lubricants to increase the life and performance of your bearings and ensure the overall success of your operations.

Here are 7 key things to look out for when storing and handling lubricants:

1. Design of lubricant storage room
A lubricant storage room must be designed to meet all the storage and handling requirements of the facility. The design should accommodate maximum storage capacity without too much bulk storage to ensure oils are used timeously. Some key factors to consider are a limited access door that will log when a lube technician enters and leaves the room, a visible landing area for new lubricants and a log for lubricant deliveries.

Other design factors must allow filtration of stored lubricants, proper safety devices and enough floor space for fireproof storage cabinets (or a separate storage area entirely) to store top-up containers, grease guns, bulk totes, drums, buckets etc. without allowing contamination. The design should allow sufficient space for a desk and computer to receive and log lubricants as well as conduct and log sampling and filtration processes. The lubricant storage room can also contain room ventilation with positive or negative pressure or exhaust-air ventilation to reduce or remove airborne contaminants.

2. Bulk Oil Storage
Whether you’re storing lubricants in large storage drums or a massive tank, it’s important to remove the risk of contamination or the settling of additives by using the right-sized container for the lubricant. You can choose the correct container by determining how much lubricant should be stored at one time to meet the rate of consumption and ensure maximum shelf life – while allowing backups for emergencies and supplier turnaround time.

If lubricants are required in large capacities, large storage drums or a rack mounted storage system may be required.

3. Receiving requirements
The way in which a plant receives lubricants can provide opportunities for contamination or the improper mixing of lubricants. By maintaining proper written receiving procedures in your storage and handling unit, you can ensure consistency and cleanliness throughout all receiving procedures to mitigate the risk of contamination, from filtering incoming oils (to ensure they meet your defined target particle cleanliness level) to correct labelling and storing of incoming lubricants.

4. Dispensing Stored Oils
When transferring stored oil from the bulk storage system to the top-up container, we recommend filtering the dispensing oil to ensure limited exposure to atmospheric conditions.
This becomes simple if you use a hard-plumbed filtration system and a rack mounted storage system with dedicated dispensing nozzles. If you’re using 55-gallon drums, fitting these with quick-connect fittings, a hand pump, an inline filter manifold breather and a sight glass will serve the same purpose.

Lastly, make sure that when you transport the oil from a top-up container to the machine, you utilize a top-up container that is sealed from the environment with a built-in spout, hand pump, etc. to minimize contamination and allow easy cleaning and maintenance.

5. Storing equipment and tools
Poor housekeeping is a sure-fire way of introducing contaminants into your lubricant. We recommend storing top-up containers, grease guns, rags and other equipment in dedicated fire-proof storage cabinets and keeping these organized and accessible. When storing grease, use sealable washable containers; grease tubes and drums that are used over an extended period (and opened often) have an elevated risk of contamination. If you can’t use sealable containers, use Velcro-style covers and snap-on caps to keep lubricant clean.

6. Shelf Life
Whether you’re using oil or grease, it’s crucial to be aware of your lubricant’s shelf life. Exceeding OEM shelf life can hinder the lubricant’s performance or worse, render it useless. This can have long-term consequences for your facility and result in unnecessary maintenance or repair costs. We recommend the First-In, First-Out (FIFO) method where you use the oldest lubricants first and the newest lubricants (those most recently placed in the storage unit) are used last.
The National Lubrication Grease Institute offers the following best practice recommendations:

  • Store lubricant indoors in a cool, dry area to limit airborne debris
  • Use the oldest container of lubricant first
  • Keep containers tightly covered
  • Wipe off the edges of a container before opening it to prevent dirt getting in
  • Where necessary, bring grease to the correct dispensing temperature before using it
  • Clean grease-handling tools (such as spatulas, drum pumps, grease guns etc.)
  • When partially using lubricant from a container, refill the container and smooth and level the surface before closing
  • Store grease tubes upright with the removable cap facing up

7. Labelling and Identification
Lubricant labelling is an aspect of storage and handling that is often overlooked. Without proper labelling, it’s easy for cross contamination to occur. Decide how to label each lubricant, from bulk storage requirements to the equipment it will be used for. Any labelling system, whether alphanumeric or colour coded or any combination of these, ensures lubricants are kept in the right location and prevents cross contamination. However, you must make sure that labelling is consistent and up to date.

Matching stored lubricants to the machines should be the primary goal of your labelling system. All maintenance personnel must be able to correctly identify lubricants in storage and to correctly identify their applications to match the lubricant appropriately.

Feeling like lubrication storage is just too much to handle? Call our toll-free number on 1-800-367-4180. We have experts on hand to advise you on lubrication storage and handling. And to answer questions about things you’ve previously tried gone wrong.