Contamination Control Lubrication Storage & Handling

Design Lube Storage With these Guidelines

Ken Bannister | June 20, 2018

A properly designed, centralized lube-storage facility will play a major role in equipment and machinery performance.

As with all consumable products, lubricants have a defined shelf life. How well they are stored will directly affect their usability and service performance.

Ensuring your equipment and machinery receive quality lubricants from the onset requires an understanding of your lubrication needs; your commitment to successfully manage storage, stock rotation, and dispensing of lubricants; and building the appropriate lubricant-storage facility. Many factors play into the finished design of a purpose-built facility. The two most prevalent are budget and real estate. A third factor, common sense, is required to drive the design decision choices relevant to your immediate and future needs, balanced with the demands of your working environment.

Starting the lubricant-storage design process requires answers to three simple questions through up-front data gathering and basic decision-making:

Are you planning to expand operations in the next five years? If your company is planning to expand operations in the near future, you may want to consider room for growth in the original lubricant-storage design.

What plant real estate are you willing to commit to your lubrication-storage facility?

What are you planning to store in your lubricant-storage facility? (This is not a trick question.) Typical lubricant-storage facilities can store numerous items, including:

• new lubricants—oils (lubricating, hydraulic, cutting), greases, pastes, and waxes

• used lubricants—used oils for recycling that must be stored separately by oil type, and viscosity

• chemicals—cleaning and production chemicals requiring special handling

• bulk-storage tanks for new lubricants—may be custom-designed and color-coded tanks complete with specialized metering and dispensing attachments or they made be simple large-capacity tote bins

• shelving—for storage of oil drums and grease pails

• fireproof cabinets—for storing dispensing containers, sprays, and small specialty-lube products

• spill-containment equipment

• motorized and manual transfer-cart parking area

• lube-truck parking area

• fork-lift parking and maneuver  area

• fire-safety equipment

• eye-wash safety equipment.

The amount of storage space required for lubricants and chemicals will greatly depend on the annual usage factor and product turnover rate. This will require knowledge of your current lubricant catalog and purchase history.

If your company has been through a recent lubricant-consolidation exercise, this information will be readily attainable. If not, prior to breaking ground on your lubricant-storage area, perform a lubricant-consolidation exercise with the assistance of a reputable lubrication consultant or your primary lubricant supplier/manufacturer.

Now that the number of products and usage are known, decisions can be made based on economy of bulk purchase (this requires a larger footprint) versus the additional cost of purchasing in smaller, more manageable container sizes that will always assure fresh lubricant. Although most lubricant products have shelf lives of more than a year if stored in a clean, dry, temperature-controlled environment, always strive to rotate stock within a six-month timeframe.    

Design Process

Once the real-estate decisions are made, the task to design the most efficient and ergonomic lubricant-storage facility can begin. For a storage facility to operate successfully, it must have the following attributes:

• close access to bulk and barrel delivery and used-oil pickup station (if not part of the building design)

• tow-truck maneuverability access to promote FIFO (first-in, first-out) stock rotation and to move totes and new/used barrels in and out of the facility

• protection from outside elements such as rain, snow, wind, excess cold and heat—all of which can easily contaminate lubricants with dirt and/or water

• access to electricity and water

• ability to support a concrete slab and footing walls (berms, low-point drains, high-point entrance thresholds) for environmental-spill containment.

The real-estate decision may end up with a segregated outdoor facility or an integrated indoor facility. Each has their pros and cons. For example, in Northern climates, cold winters require insulated and heated outdoor facilities. Indoor facilities are naturally heated to plant temperature, but air exchange and filtering must be piped to the outside of the plant. In both cases, good lubrication-room design points will include:

• good lighting—intrinsically safe (fixtures designed to eliminate sparking)
• air-quality sensors
• spill-control design
• temperature control
• access control
• ventilation air-exchange system
• eye-wash station
• grounded fixtures
• fire-proofing
• fire-suppression systems
• fire-emergency plan logged with local fire department.

Location will have an impact on the initial facility build cost and ongoing operating costs but, in most cases, these pale when compared to the cost of poor lubrication practices.

Delivery to End Point

When storing and transferring lubricants within the storage facility, following a few simple rules will minimize contamination and spills:

• Use dedicated storage tanks, pumps, and transfer equipment; one set per lubricant. Label all equipment with the appropriate lubricant identification.

• Ensure storage tanks always have their fill caps and breathers securely in place.

• Implement a regular-cleaning preventive-maintenance work order for all tanks, reservoirs, and transfer equipment.

• Transfer bulk oil from tote to lube truck or container using dedicated filter carts that will clean the oil during the transfer process.

• Use quick-connect couplings for pump transfer wherever possible.

• Avoid use of suction/fill wands.

• Don’t use open makeshift transfer containers.

• Never leave lubricant containers open after transfer has taken place.

• Use color-coded containers that match transfer container to lubricant reservoir.

• Log all reservoir-fill dates or drum, barrel, pail receipt dates and rotate stock in a FIFO rotation. Dedicated transfer and fill equipment are an integral part of the lubricant-storage facility and will need to be included in the build cost.

With a build-specification-requirement list in hand, the information can be passed to a lubrication-storage-facility design specialist company.It can then put together a design proposal that’s assured to best meet your site’s needs. You will likely only get one chance to build your lubricant storage facility, use it wisely. EP

Contributing editor Ken Bannister is co-author, with Heinz Bloch, of the book Practical Lubrication for Industrial Facilities, 3rd Edition (The Fairmont Press, Lilburn, GA). As managing partner and principal consultant for Engtech Industries Inc., Innerkip, Ontario, he specializes in the implementation of lubrication-effectiveness reviews to ISO 55001 standards, asset-management systems, and training. Contact him at, or telephone 519-469-9173.


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Ken Bannister

Ken Bannister

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