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July 05, 2019 7 min read

Lubrication System Design and Information

Fireball Equipment has been in the fluid handling business for over 20 years and lubrication systems are one of the most common products that we sell.

What does a lubrication system consist of?

Any lubrication system will consist of the same basic components, a tank to store the fluids, a pump to move the fluids, pipe or hose to transport the fluids and a dispenser to dispense the fluids into the actual equipment. The design of each system will be different based on the customer. A fast lube or an automotive dealership will have a very different equipment setup than a mine site but both systems will handle lubrication fluids in a similar manner.

Typical lubrication system

In most setups we install tanks in which to store lubricants. These tanks could range in size from drums or stackable totes to 300 000 litre bulk storage tanks. These tanks can be located off the shop floor to conserve space and be connected to the fluid dispense system via seamless steel tubing.

The fluids typically, would be moved through the tubing and kept pressurized by air powered piston pumps. The fluid could then be delivered to a hose reel equipped with a dispense valve for ease of dispense. The reels can be ceiling, wall or rack mounted as can the piping so the system leaves a very small foot print but can still be used to deliver fluids wherever they are needed. Fireball Equipment has designed and implemented handling solutions to handle all manner of lubricants everything from low pressure engine oil to grease dispensed at pressures in excess of 5000 PSI.

Fireball Equipment Lubrication Systems

All of our lubrication systems have the option for integrated fluid tracking which automates the tracking of fluid dispenses and tank levels. This makes fluid distribution much more efficient and cost effective. We recommend the tracking system based on industry, budget, and overall needs.

Fireball Equipment can design a lubrication system for any shop and to fit any budget contact our sales team for more information today.

Components Of A Lubrication System

Storage Containers/Tanks

Plastic jugs:There will usually be some need for jugs of specialized oils. Oil in jugs is subject to the Alberta Environmental Handling Charge (EHC) as well as a price premium of up to $.60/litre compared to bulk oil.

Kegs:60 L (15 gall) kegs are for low volume portable applications such as gear oils where there may be up to 4 different types

Drums:205 L (45 gall) drums are commonly used for gear oils and some low volume specialized oils. There is typically a $.25/litre price premium for drums compared to bulk. As well, drums create require changeover when empty, run dry during dispense jobs and require administration and handling for the $50 drum deposit charged by the oil supplier (sometimes greater). For these reasons, drums are not typically used for higher volume oils. Coolant (anti-freeze) is often delivered in drums though the trend is toward bulk delivery here as well.

Totes :Totes are 1,000 L (250 Gal) portable lube oil containers that can be delivered by common carrier and put in place by forklift. They are sometimes called lube-tainers or lube totes. They are usually steel or steel framed enclosing a poly tank. They have a deposit, are returnable and are re-used indefinitely.

Totes typically feed directly into a distribution pump. Our preference is to place the tote on a rack and feed into a bottom tote or a day tank that is vented higher than the top of the tote. This allows the customer the capacity of the “day tank” to change over the totes, it eliminates running out of oil during a dispense job and it also allows for complete draining before the tote is returned.

Totes are used less commonly than in the past as bulk delivery is available in most locations by most oil suppliers.

Tanks:For most applications engine, transmission, hydraulic and often gear oils should be in storage tanks. Most oil suppliers have bulk trucks to fill tanks or can decant out of drums if they have to. Tanks reduce purchase costs, prevent running out during dispense jobs, are cleaner, take less handling and produce less waste.

The most common storage tank for small to medium sized shops is a 1,100 L (250 Gal) oval tank (actually, the shape is obround). These are space efficient with a nominal 2’ x 6’ footprint (4.5 ft high), are relatively cheap and can be ULC certified to S-602. They can be bottom connected for more capacity. For larger storage requirements a vertical round tank is the most common.

Lubricating oil is not classified by the National Fire Code or the Alberta Fire Code. As such, there is no requirement for secondary containment, ULC certification or outside venting. We recommend certification to ensure a good quality.

Oil and Anti-Freeze Pumps

Air powered, reciprocating piston pumps are the most common delivery pumps in the industry because there are typically multiple users far from the pump and the time between usage is long. Air allows the pump to “stall” out with no energy consumption and without remote electrical switches. It can also generate higher pressures than most gear or rotary vane pumps.

Pump Pressure:Piston pumps consist of an air motor section and a fluid section. The area of the fluid section in relation to the area of the air motor determines the factor or “ratio” by which the incoming air is multiplied as the force is transmitted to the fluid. Lube pumps are 5:1 ratio for many oil distribution systems. This gives the lubricating oil 500 psi pressure output for input air pressure of 100 psi. When specifying pumps, you need to specify the ratio or the output pressure at a given input pressure, usually 100 psi. It is important to note that this ratio only determines output pressure, not flow rate.

Pump flow rates:Pump flow rate is determined by the bore and stroke of the fluid section and the cycle rate. It is common but misleading to rate pumps by their “free flow rate” as this can by 3-4 times higher than a realistic operating rate, usually because the pump is rated at a higher cycle rate. It is also common to rate pumps by their air motor diameter (i.e.: 3”, 4”, 5”). This ignores stroke length. Our recommendation is to rate pump flow rate by litres per minute (lpm) at a cycle rate of 60 cycles per minute (cpm). A typical distribution pump for automotive and truck shops delivers 8 lpm (2 gpm) at 60 cpm. Larger shops and industrial applications require pumps that deliver 45 lpm (10 gpm) at 60 cpm.

Specifying pumps:Since the pump must deliver flow and pressure, they must both be specified when the pump is described. For example, if your design specification calls for simultaneous operation of 2 stations with a flow rate of 8 LPM each and your line loss calculations indicate a system loss of 600 psi, you could spec a President 6:1 pump to accomplish this. For your convenience, a table is attached that describes the various Graco pump models, their pressure outputs at 100 psi input, their flow rates at 60 cycles per minute, and the CFM requirement at this level of operation. The 1998 list price is shown to help you make decisions regarding the relative cost of different levels of pump performance.

Anti-freeze:Standard piston pumps should not be used for anti-freeze as it will destroy the seals. Diaphragm pumps are commonly used for coolant. Because anti-freeze is so light a 1:1 pump is adequate to handle most applications. There are specialized piston pumps available as well but they are much more costly. See section on used oil transfer for more information on double diaphragm pumps.

High Volume Pumps for Mining:The new NXT Graco pumps can deliver high oil and grease volumes using an air pump with the reliability and performance of hydraulically-driven pumps. They include electronic cycle-counters, electronic runaway protection and integral air filters and regulators.

If you are looking for a pump get in contact with our experts or check out our online store 

Hydraulically-Powered Oil, Coolant and Grease Pumps

Hydraulically powered piston pumps are gaining broad acceptance in the mining and industrial applications. They are driven off a hydraulic fluid supply that typically delivers up to 200 LPM of supply at 1,500 PSI. Power transfer through hydraulics is more efficient than air systems and, because it is a closed system there is less chance for contamination so components should last longer. They are less troublesome in cold weather and are quieter than air powered pumps.

The key components required are a hydraulic power supply, a hydraulic fluid control to regulate the flow to each pump (comparable in function to an air regulator) and a pump. The pumps are reciprocating and consist of an upper hydraulic motor and a lower product pump section. Because the input pressures are up to 1,500 psi, the pump ratios have a wide range.

Hose Reels

Typical spring rewind reel lengths are 25 ft, 50 ft, 75 ft. Smaller reels use ½” hydraulic hose, larger reels use ½” or ¾”. Waste oil evacuation reels and fuels dispensing reels often go up to 1”. Reels longer than 75 ft are available but are usually retracted by air, hydraulics or electrically. The trade-off usually comes in the customer’s reluctance to drag a long hose across the shop to dispense oil.

Graco 25 and 50 ft reels (Graco 250, 350 series) are used for automotive shops for flow rates up to 6 gpm. Heavy duty reels (Graco 500 series) have double pedestals to support the reel body and extend to the roller assembly. The head with the roller can be positioned to match the application. Double arm reels are essential for lube trucks or mobile applications.

75 ft reels and larger (Graco 700 series) are wide body styles whereby the drum is well supported by a full base. They handle up to 75 ft of ¾” hose or 50 ft of 1” hose. These are ideal for light and heavy industrial shops, mining, lube trucks and heavy duty truck shops. They are commonly used for lubricants, coolant, bulk grease, fuel delivery, waste oil and waste coolant evacuation. They have a relatively narrow body at 12” with a total width of 15”. Typically allow 18” of width per reel and 26” of height to allow service access around the reel.

The swivel assembly on some 25 and 50 ft reels can be reduced to 3/8”. This reduction will cause a certain amount of restriction in higher flow applications. It is not likely significant in lower flow installations. Graco reels are fully ported.

Dispense Valves are a critical component. Read about them here.

Grease Pumps. Find more information here.

Fluid Management Systems

A number of fluid management systems are available. These systems change depending on your needs. Things to consider are: application, fluid tracking importance, access points, data management systems, ports that need tracking, overall volume, staff count, budget, and more.

Contact us to see which system is best for you. Whether you are a mine operator or a fast lube shop. We have a system that will work for you. Contact us here.


Fireball Equipment Ltd.
16815 117 Avenue NW, Unit #110, 
Edmonton, AB T5M 3V6
Phone: (780) 944-4818
Fax: (780) 944-4898

For Parts And Service

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