Are You Protecting Your Stored Lubricants?

Travis Richardson, Noria Corporation

The effort to consolidate, label and organize lubricants usually results in a neat, manageable lube storeroom. When things are organized and lubricants are easily identifiable, the chance of a machine-damaging lubricant mix-up is lowered. But, a properly managed storeroom doesn’t just make handling lubricants easier; best practice lubrication storage techniques serve to protect the lubricant until it is ready to be used.

The location and environment of stored lubricants will affect their performance when it comes time to use them. A lubricant’s recommended shelf-life is largely influenced by its additive package. Some additives, like rust inhibitors, decay quickly, weakening performance in as little as six months of storage. Some turbine oils, on the other hand, have a light additive dose, allowing them to be stored for up to three years. OEMs can provide recommended storage times for specific lubricants, but it is important to remember that they make these recommendations based on ideal conditions; longevity will also be affected by environmental factors unique to your facility, including:

- Humidity

Moisture accelerates oxidation and degrades lubricant additive packages. As such, lubricants should not be stored in humid environments. Moisture can be combatted by attaching desiccant breathers to lubrication storage containers.

- Extreme temperatures

Extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, can cause chemical degradation. Cold storage, specifically, can lead to precipitation.

- Temperature variations

Fluctuations in temperature cause the air within lubricant storage containers to move. Essentially, as temperatures fall, lubrication containers exhale, and as temperatures rise, they inhale. This thermal siphoning can quickly degrade lubricants and is one of the reasons that temperature control is so important.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Storage

Indoor storage is always preferable to outdoor storage. Indoor storage spaces allow for more consistent temperature control and typically provide more protection from potential sources of contamination. Ideally, the storeroom will be set up in such a way that oil containers can be rotated and a first-in-first-out system can be implemented.

Unfortunately, it is not always possible to store lubricants indoors. If outside storage is the only option, store oil drums horizontally and try to find some covering to protect the lubricants from the elements. You can deal with outside storing conditions more effectively by carefully tracking lubricant consumption. By using up all the stored lubricants and replacing them just before you run out, you can minimize exposure to outdoor conditions.

Maintaining Storage Conditions

As with most aspects of a quality lubrication program, best practice lubricant storage techniques can only be effective if they are properly maintained. It is essential to keep the lube room neat and the lubricants and tools properly labeled. And unless lubricant reception and usage are carefully tracked, the system will quickly become ineffective, and lubricants will degrade at devastating rates.

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About the Author

Travis Richardson is an associate technical consultant for Noria Corporation. He holds a Level II Machine Lubrication Technician (MLT) certification and a Level II Machine Lubricant Analyst (MLA...