The Oil Bay: Establishing proper oil storage methods

Oil should be stored in airtight containers, properly covered drums and in a clean facility. It’s best stored indoors in a cool, dry location with little temperature variation.

When oil is stored improperly, the consequences can be severe for you as well as for your customers.

Mark Betner, heavy-duty lubricant manager, CITGO Petroleum Corp., said that you may face possible fines if there is a spill that could impact the environment. You also may lose money if component failure occurs because of contaminated oil that was used in the vehicle. He said that “it can be declared as lack of maintenance, which would result in a loss of equipment warranty.”

When contaminated lubricant is used in the vehicle, “it can damage vehicle components and result in higher parts, labor and overall maintenance costs,” Betner explained.

Lubricant storage should be user friendly, functional and convenient in terms of access to equipment, he said.

Bulk dispensing equipment should be specified properly for distance from the storage container to the actual application. “Inadequate dispensing capability of pumps and hoses can result in poor dispensing capability in wide temperature range situations.

“Storing lubricant in cold storage areas also can make dispensing much slower. Many technicians may become impatient with a slow dispensing product and may not take care to fill the compartment properly or to relube in the case of grease applications,” Betner said.

Nicole Fujishige, commercial automotive specialist, Chevron Products Company, said that bulk storage containers should be airtight and the breather should be checked to ensure it is cleaned and operating properly. “You also could install filtration systems to avoid dust and particulates, and always ensure that the hatchway covers are locked to avoid the entry of contaminants,” she said.

Contamination is one of the greatest threats to oil, and Fujishige said that fluid contamination is one of the main causes of lubricant-related engine failure. “Dirty oil often is a result of poor storage or contamination as the oil is transferred from one container to another or from a container into the equipment.

“Therefore, you must make certain the fill cap and surrounding parts of the equipment are clean and free of debris prior to opening up the equipment and trying to add the fresh lubricant,” she said. “Contaminants also can enter the system as the filter is being replaced if proper care is not taken to make certain the parts are cleaned prior to attempting to change a filter.”

The best defense against airborne particles, moisture and debris is to store oil in airtight containers. “Keeping this debris and moisture out of oil is the major goal of any storage procedure,” Fujishige said.

“In addition, it is best to avoid outdoor drum storage. Rain water usually is cooler than the oil in the drum, and when the cool water hits the top of the drum, a vacuum is created and the water is sucked in past the bung, which potentially contaminates the stored oil.

“Try to store drums on their side; but if they must be stored upright, tilt the drum with the bungs at three and nine positions,” she said. Betner added, “You also can lay the drums on a pallet, for example, so that they avoid direct contact with the ground.”

Besides keeping oil in airtight containers, Fujishige explained that facility cleanliness is another key component of proper oil storage. “The cleaner a facility is kept, the less possibility there is for contaminants to enter the oil, equipment or drums.”

Betner added that it’s important to be careful when moving equipment in the shop so as to avoid damage to the pumps and hoses. “Significant damage is done to dispensing apparatuses each year because of carelessness, and the lubricant provider often is expected to replace or repair the apparatus at no charge, which ultimately results in higher lubricant costs down the road.”

Fujishige said that there are used oil storage services or facilities and above-ground storage tanks available for shops and garages to store used oil.

“I recommend companies work with their lubricant provider for recommendations on proper used oil storage practices as well as the proper methods for disposing used oils in accordance with local and state regulations,” she said.

Betner said that most equipment managers are aware of storage rules regarding spills and containment. If there is any doubt, consult with your lubricant provider and local requirements for lubricant storage.

“Improper oil storage can cause poor engine performance or an all-out engine, transmission or differential failure, which results in trucks being taken out of service. The more time your customer spends in the service bay, the less money he makes,” Fujishige said.

By adhering to the proper oil storage procedures, your lubricant will be free of contaminants, and your customer’s engine will not be put at risk.

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