Industrial lubricant storage and handling

How to properly store oil drums outdoors

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Technical topics

As a result of space constraints, plant managers often store oil drums outdoors. The benefits of this space-saving solution are significantly compromised when drums are left uncovered and exposed to a number of environmental conditions that can have a negative effect on the performance of the oil, even before it begins its service life.

One major consideration for outdoor oil storage is the potential for water ingression. Drums stored outside are subject to a range of temperatures, which causes the lubricant within the drum to breathe.

Consider this situation: An uncovered oil drum stored outdoors sits in the rain, collecting water on the drum lid. While raining, the outdoor temperature drops, causing the lubricant within the drum to cool and contract. The next day, the sun warms the drum and the lubricant expands, releasing air from the tap on the lid of the drum. Later that evening, the outdoor temperature cools and the oil in the drum contracts again, causing the tap on the lid to “breathe” in air to fill the space within the drum. With the air comes some of the water that has pooled on the oil drum from the previous night’s rain, contaminating the oil.

To avoid this and other potential issues, consider the following tips for outdoor oil  drum storage:

  • When possible, store barrels on their sides to avoid pooling of moisture.
  • Employ drum covers to protect the barrels from environmental elements, such as moisture or sunlight.
  • If vertical storage is required, place one edge of the drum on a brick or block, elevating one side of the drum and allowing water to run off the lid.
  • Alternatively, when storing drums vertically, place them upside down in containment tanks large enough to collect leakage when it occurs.