Oil Storage Containers and Dispensing Systems: A Complete Guide

Jonathan Trout, Noria Corporation

Oil Storage Containers and Dispensing Systems: A Complete Guide

Modern oil storage containers and dispensing systems are vital tools for maintenance programs. Below we'll discuss oil storage container and bulk dispensing systems and the different ways you can configure them for your needs.


Modernizing Oil Storage and Dispensing

Component failure can almost always be traced back to the very thing that is meant to keep it running smoothly – lubrication. In fact, up to 80 percent of bearing failures are caused by improper lubrication – that is, insufficient lubrication, using improper lubricants or using degraded lubricant due to excessive temperatures. Mixing the wrong kinds of lubricants together (cross-contamination) is another major cause of degraded oil and component and machinery failure. Mixing synthetic and mineral-based lubricants can cause major problems that lead to leaks and complete failures. Oil contamination and cross-contamination typically occur during:

  • Delivery (already contaminated)
  • Storage (contaminants may enter)
  • Transfer (poor practice or process)
  • Dispensing to machinery (poor practice or process)

Proper oil storage and dispensing are the first line of defense for protecting the integrity of your bulk oil supply. Modern oil storage containers and dispensing systems make it easier than ever to organize, store and dispense multiple types of oil from the same station while preventing cross-contamination through proper identification systems. Modern color-coded systems ensure each type of oil is going through the correct hoses and into the correct machine. They also greatly minimize the potential for spills and the mishandling of the different types of oil with Environmental Protection Agency-standard spill containment kits.

Below, we'll discuss the types of modern oil storage containers and review features you should look for in a modern oil dispensing system.


Types of Oil Storage Containers

Modern oil storage containers should meet the UL SU2d258 standards for aboveground nonmetallic tanks for fuel and other combustible liquids. Additionally, oil storage containers should have spaces to properly label the type of oil inside and to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Right to Know federal law. This law states that employees have the right to know what chemicals they're working with, so labels must show the product inside the storage container, who makes it and note any dangers the substance holds.

Steel vs. Polyethylene Containers

Modern oil storage containers should either be made of stainless steel or polyethylene. Regular steel is outdated and has the tendency to rust and corrode, causing oil contamination and the leaching out of oil additives. You'll typically see stainless-steel oil storage containers used for bulk oil storage, especially with oil dispensing racks. Polyethylene oil storage containers have many advantages over stainless steel, however, and are used in applications from small oil sampling to large bulk oil storage. Some advantages polyethylene oil storage containers have over stainless steel include:

Bulk poly container
  • Visibility: Polyethylene gives you semi-visibility, so you can check oil levels inside the container without exposing the interior to the open air.
  • Longevity/durability: Polyethylene oil storage containers are built for longevity and involve very little maintenance. While stainless steel is strong, polyethylene oil storage tanks have thicker sidewalls and are more flexible than stainless steel. Thicker sidewalls and flexibility offered by the polyethylene material lets oil storage containers better absorb impact.
  • Seamless: Welded seams give contaminants a place to hide over time and lend themselves to rusting when fittings are added by welding. Polyethylene oil storage containers are seamless and can be formed into multiple configurations and sizes.
  • Mobility: Polyethylene oil storage containers are lightweight and easy to move if you need to reconfigure your oil storage space or lube room.

Traditional oil storage containers – jugs, kegs or drums – often come with issues that relate to oil cleanliness. Drum storage is vulnerable to inaccurate inventory control and residual waste product. Empty drums leave behind product residue that builds up over time. For these reasons, polyethylene oil storage containers offer a big advantage when it comes to maintaining oil cleanliness levels and minimizing waste.

Double-Wall Oil Storage Containers

The Environmental Protection Agency's regulations on spill prevention, control and countermeasure (SPCC) state that fuel and storage tanks must have some type of secondary containment. For single-wall storage containers, this is usually a concrete structure or, if you're using an oil dispensing system, it's a spill containment tray.

Double-wall oil storage containers (sometimes called hybrid double-wall containers) use an inner layer and an outer layer as this secondary containment, providing an extra layer of safety and reliability. They offer the best of both worlds with an outer layer of fire-resistant, leak-proof galvanized steel and an inner layer of molded, high-density polyethylene. Like most oil storage containers, double-wall oil storage containers can be used as standalone oil storage containers or configured to fit into an oil dispensing system. Two major benefits of double-wall oil storage tanks include:

  • Class II and III fluids such as hydraulic and gear oil, brake or power steering fluids, ethylene or propylene glycol-based anti-freeze, diesel and biofuels can be stored.
  • Outer tanks are usually designed as a secondary containment barrier holding more than 100 percent of the inner tank's fluids. This built-in secondary container prevents you from needing to add a secondary containment barrier like you would with a single-wall oil storage container.

It's important to note the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has another set of standards for a secondary wall to be used as a secondary container. It's best practice to verify with the hybrid oil storage container's manufacturer that all EPA standards are met.

Portable Oil Storage Containers

Polyethylene portable oil storage containers are ideal for mobile applications when you need to transport oil to remote service areas or to another area on your maintenance route within your plant. These resealable containers come in a wide range of sizes, from handheld to more than 400 gallons of storage space. Many portable oil storage containers are stackable and designed with forklift skids for loading and off-loading. If you're shopping for portable oil storage containers, make sure they have the capability to be equipped with pumps and hose reels for dispensing oil, as well as onboard filtration to ensure your oil meets cleanliness targets in the field.

If you need portable oil storage containers in your plant or shop, many are designed to be on rollers with air and electrical connections.


Oil Dispensing Systems: What You Need to Know

Lubricants and other types of oil are often contaminated in the place they're delivered and stored, such as a lube room. Further contamination can occur with improper dispensing and handling between the lube room and the application point. Oil dispensing systems are a modern way to store multiple types of bulk oil in one place and reduce, prevent or eliminate contamination in storage and dispensing.

Modern oil dispensing systems are highly adaptive and can be configured to meet specific cleanliness requirements. Steering away from oil drum storage, oil dispensing systems provide a safer, cleaner and more accurate way to handle oil by giving you a centralized lubrication system. From this centralized system, oil can be stored in bulk and dispensed through hose reels directly in the unit being serviced. Below, we'll take a look at some common oil dispensing system configurations.

Bulk Storage Oil Dispensing Systems

OilSafe Bulk Storage System

Bulk oil dispensing systems can be ordered to custom specifications and generally consist of four to eight storage tanks ranging in size from 30 to 240 gallons. Features you should consider for your bulk storage oil dispensing system include:

  • Color coding: Color-coded tanks that correspond to the same color hose and taps help to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Pressurized dispensing taps: Pressurized taps help make sure oil is dispensed at the appropriate flow rate.
  • Built-in spill containment: A spill containment tray or reservoir ensures compliance with the EPA.
  • Pumps/filters: A separate pump and filter for each tank is vital, each with three-way filtration (filters while filling, kidney-loop filtration and while dispensing).
  • Proper hosing: Hoses should be MSHA CFR30-rated with auto-shutoff and tank isolation valves.
  • Tanks: Tanks should be polyethylene or stainless steel.
  • Desiccant breathers: For bulk oil storage, it's best practice to install desiccant breathers on each tank due to the larger headspace.
  • Standard beta filters: Your oil dispensing system should come with standard beta filters with the option to upgrade to higher beta ratings.
  • Multiple configurations: As mentioned earlier, your bulk oil dispensing system should have the option to be reconfigured based on changing needs. This may mean having the ability to add more tanks should you require other types of oil.

Oil Drum Dispensing Systems

If you're using oil drums for bulk storage, oil drum dispensing systems give you best-practice contamination control and are designed to take up minimal space. Let's take a look at some must-have features for an oil drum dispensing system.

Oil drum dispensing system
  • Pressurized dispensing taps: Pressurized taps help control the flow of oil.
  • Stainless-steel drop pan: This ensures compliance with the EPA's regulation for secondary containment.
  • Pump/filter: A pump with two-way filtration filters oil while dispensing and recirculates (kidney loop). It's best to use a positive-displacement gear pump with an internal bypass in case you need to move the oil without filtering it.
  • Pump options: You should have the option of an electric or pneumatic pump.
  • Standard beta filters: Most systems typically come with a 7-micron beta filter with the option to upgrade.
  • Flame-resistant hoses: Fire-suppression hose assemblies with quick connects help meet safety standards.
  • Dedicated suction spear/hose: Hoses should be dedicated to a single type of oil with a stainless-steel or polyvinyl-chloride (PVC) suction spear for clean operation and contamination prevention.

Oil Tote Dispensing Rack

Similar to oil drum dispensing systems, a tote dispensing rack is designed for large-capacity polyethylene totes. The tote sits on top of the rack with the pump, hose reel and filters situated underneath, just above the spill containment tray. Your tote dispensing rack should have the ability to expand the spill containment tray capacity to meet SPCC compliance. Tote dispensing rack features are similar to the oil drum dispensing system. Additional features include:

  • Retractable hose reel: Situated underneath the tote, the retractable hose reel should have a trigger dispenser attached to it.
  • Forklift compatible: Some oil tote dispensing racks are designed to be moved using a forklift or pallet truck. This is ideal for reconfiguring lube rooms or storage space because you can move the entire unit (tote and rack) at the same time.

Oil tote dispensing racks can be fitted with different motors (110 or 240 volts) and are made for specific viscosity ratings (for example, ISO 680 or less).


Benefits of Modern Oil Dispensing Systems and Containers

We've already discussed how modern oil dispensing systems and containers help manage oil safely, cleanly and cost effectively. Let's take a look at some other benefits:

  • Improves efficiency: Oil dispensing systems reduce the inefficient transfer of oil, which can cause safety issues. Controlling safety alone eliminates things like spills and clean-ups, higher labor costs and purchasing absorbents. Additionally, having an oil dispensing system lets you store oil close to your work area, keeping it readily available without the need to make multiple trips to and from each machine.
  • Reduces space: Oil dispensing systems are designed to maximize space. For example, stackable oil tote dispensing racks can place 300-gallon totes on top of the dispensing system, while bulk oil dispensing systems can house multiple oil storage tanks together. In general, oil dispensing systems let you consolidate your oil inventory and reduce space used in storage. They can also be reconfigured as your inventory grows or shrinks.
  • Prevents cross-contamination: By consistently identifying oils through the use of labels and a color-coding system, you can ensure the right oil goes into the correct storage container, through the correct hose and into the correct machine every time.
  • Improves compliance: Using an oil dispensing system designed with EPA, OSHA and other standards and regulations in mind helps you improve compliance and safety as well as reduces waste by eliminating spills.
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