Lubricant Storage and Dispensing Systems

Tips for lubricant storage and dispensing systems in the shop.


When deciding upon the appropriate storage, handling and dispensing equipment and system, a shop must first know what lubricants and fluids it uses, the amount of each being consumed and how much of each type is used in any given area, says Fireball Equipment’s Murphy. The shop also needs to consider the different fluid monitoring and inventory management and control systems available to manage and record the usage.

Typically, bulk storage tanks or tote setups can be used for high usage type lubricants - usually 200 gallons or more per month, Badal of Chevron Lubricants says. With lower usage type lubricants, packaging such as drums, kegs, pails, gallon jugs, etc., can be used based on a shop’s monthly or periodic requirements.

“However, some areas for low volume usage can be in mini-bulk systems or with the direction towards environmentally packaging offerings,” he notes. “Bag-in-the-box concepts are taking off for lower volume liquid lubricants.

“The bag-in-the-box concept has primarily been focused on passenger car engine oils and smaller volume items, such as automatic transmission fluid and gear oils, but can be extended to industrial and commercial lubricants to help lessen the impact of steel or plastic containers in the environment.”


When working with a shop to design and provide equipment configurations, one important piece of information Fireball Equipment gathers upfront is whether or not there is an advantage to using bulk lubricants delivered right to the vehicle rather than using packaged products.

“The answer falls into three categories: reduced product purchase costs, greater shop efficiency, and less waste,” Murphy explains. “The savings from bulk products varies significantly between suppliers and packaging types, and shop operations vary, so each fleet maintenance manager needs to do the math on their own.”

To assist in this undertaking, he offers this sample worksheet. While the example is for oil, the worksheet can be used for any fluid.

Bulk Product Worksheet

  • Volume of product bought annually
  • Savings per gallon
  • Annual purchasing cost savings
  • Number of oil changes per year
  • Time saved per oil change (include time to get the packaged product, installation time and container disposal time)
  • Value of annual time saved (hours per year x value per hour of bay time)
  • Annual handling and disposal cost of packaging
  • Annual value of retained fluid in packages
  • Saving of prepaid disposal fees included in package purchase (typically $0.25/gallon)
  • Total handling, waste and disposal costs
  • Total annual saving from buying and handling in bulk


When determining oil, lubricant and fluid storage, handling and dispensing needs, it is best to follow the fluid as it flows through the system and eventually gets recorded, advises Murphy of Fireball Equipment.

Storage - Product can be stored in kegs (15 gallons), drums (55 gallon), totes (portable tanks, typically 250 gallons in size) or tanks (typically 250 gallons and up).

“Our recommendation is to size the tank to a minimum of two months usage, keeping in mind minimum delivery sizes and price breaks,” he says. “Tanks are relatively cheap compared to what you might be able to save by buying quantities on sale.”

Lubricants have very high flash points - typically well over 400 degrees F - so they are not classified as “combustible” or “flammable” products, he points out. “As such, there are typically no fire code requirements for the tanks, including requirements for certification, venting or containment, but you should verify this with your local authority.”

Oil storage tanks have traditionally been steel, often the “oval” furnace oil tanks, but increasingly “we are seeing plastic because of aesthetics, cleanliness and product visibility. Larger steel tanks can be epoxy-lined to minimize contamination and rust.”

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