Base Oil Content and Marketing

MolaKule

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Aside from Performance Specifications and any other off-topic, I think these comments are worth consideration. From: Chapter 17 SYNTHETIC LUBRICANT BASE STOCK PROCESSES AND PRODUCTS Margaret M. Wu(a) (b) and T. Rig Forbus(c) (a) ExxonMobil Research & Engineering Co. Annandale, NJ 08801 (b) ExxonMobil Chemical Co. Synthetic Division, Edison , NJ 08818 (c) The Valvoline Co. of Ashland, Inc., Lexington, KY 40512
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...Many U.S. base oil manufacturers and formulators include some Group II+ and Group III base stocks as synthetic as their manufacturing process includes varying degrees of chemical transformation. These base stocks are usually produced by hydroprocessing or hydroisomerization, which is typically part of a refining process...(J. Synth. Lubr., 2002, 18-4, Publisher‘s Note).
Comment. The statement in Bolded-Italics is what has concerned those in the industry. I.E., if Group II+ (especially) can be considered a synthetic base oil, then could not a Group II or even a highly refined Group I, or I+, be considered as a synthetic as well? Stated differently, how far do we go in considering what is a synthetic? Do we define it according to the generally accepted chemical definition stated below, or do we let Marketing interests define it? And how much chemical "transformation" does it take to consider it a synthetic? Some would say Marketing interests have been allowed to define it ex post facto, [from the Latin, "from a thing done afterward."]
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Synthetic lubricants differ from conventional lubricants in the type of components used in the formulation. The major component in a synthetic lubricant is the synthetic base stock. Synthetic base stocks are produced from carefully-chosen and well-defined chemical compounds and by specific chemical reactions. The final base stocks are designed to have optimized properties and significantly improved performance features meeting specific equipment demands. The most commonly optimized properties are: - Viscosity Index (VI). VI is a number used to gauge an oil‘s viscosity change as a function of temperature. Higher VI indicates less viscosity change as oil temperature changes - a more desirable property. Conventional 5 cSt mineral oils generally have VIs in the range of 85 to 110. Most synthetic base stocks have VI greater than 120. Pour point and low temperature viscosities. Many synthetic base stocks have low pour points, -30 to -70°C, and superior low-temperature viscosities. Combination of low pour and superior low-temperature viscosity ensures oil flow to critical engine parts during cold starting, thus, offering better lubrication and protection. Conventional mineral oils typically have pour points in the range of 0 to -20°C. Below these temperatures, wax crystallization and oil gelation can occur, which prevent the flow of lubricant to critical machine parts. - Thermal/oxidative stability. When oil oxidation occurs during service, oil viscosity and acid content increase dramatically, possibly corroding metal parts, generating sludge and reducing efficiency. These changes can also exacerbate wear by preventing adequate oil flow to critical parts. Although oil oxidation can be controlled by adding antioxidants, in long term service and after the depletion of antioxidant, the intrinsic oxidative stability of a base stock is an important factor in preventing oil degradation and ensuring proper lubrication. Many synthetic base stocks are designed to have improved thermal oxidative stability, to respond well to antioxidants and to resist aging processes better than mineral oil. - Volatility. Synthetic base stocks can be made to minimize oil volatility. For example, polyol esters have very low volatility because of their narrow molecular weight distribution, high polarity and thermal stability. Similarly, careful selection and processing of raw materials can influence the finished properties of polyalphaolefins (PAO) base stocks. - Other properties, including friction coefficient, traction coefficient, biodegradability, resistance to radiation, etc. can be optimized for synthetic base stocks as required for their intended applications...
 
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Would the engine oil marketers have an issue with listing the API certification test results on the packaging, especially the all important 100 hour 111G test sequence on a real engine with subsequent engine tear down and inspection? Understand that only 39% of the USA engine oil labels actually have the API donut according to the Lubrizoil site.
 
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MolaKule

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Originally Posted By: Cokeboy
Would the engine oil marketers have an issue with listing the API certification test results on the packaging, especially the all important 100 hour 111G test sequence on a real engine with subsequent engine tear down and inspection? Understand that only 39% of the USA engine oil labels actually have the API donut according to the Lubrizoil site.
They possibly could publish it in their PDS', but here's the problem; The Oil companies know that the majority of the public has no real education wrt lubricants. So it is up to their Marketing departments to increase sales by "razzle-dazzle" and techy sounding words, slick commercials of fast cars supposedly using their products (association psychology), graphic simulations of moving pistons and crankshafts (you too need 7,000 rpm+ revs), and huge explosions within combustion chambers (we can take the heat, man). grin
 
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Originally Posted By: MolaKule
Originally Posted By: Tom NJ
While I agree with Mola's concept, it ain't going to happen. In order for an industry to self police the players have to want self policing. Oil companies have no incentive to reveal their base oils or set strict definitions that restrict their marketing. In the past the SAE did have a strict definition of "Synthetic" which required the base oils be chemical compounds produced by chemical synthesis and manufactured by organic reactions from relatively pure organic starting materials. They dropped that definition in 1996 under pressure from the new Group III producers. The industry does not want to get involved in defining such marketing terms, only in oil performance defined by standard and well controlled tests. Other organizations attempted to set such synthetic definitions but dropped the efforts due to lack of industry support. Fact is the word Synthetic is now just a marketing term like so many others on the label with no definition, test confirmation, or policing. At best it is the manufacturer's statement of "my best oil, trust me". I don't see this changing. Tom NJ
thumbsup True, pushback from the Marketing departments of Oil companies will attempt to kill any further classification or Self-Policing. As I stated in one of the above posts, if the oil companies don't self police themselves, then there could come a time when one or more Bureaucrats and government agencies, who have no technical expertise in the matter, will enact or attempt to act regulations similar to Germany's current laws. One has only to look at the BBB decision. While not a legal court case, the point is non-technical people can make a bad technical decision, IMHO. smile Unfortunately, Marketing seems to trump common sense. As a side note, PQIA has been doing its best to sound the alarm on "trash" oils. It has only been recently that some states Consumer Protection Agencies have become involved.
I think they are so used to heavy regulation that they don't consider "heading off" regulators.
 
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In my opinion if the base stems from crude directly out the ground no matter what processing is performed on the crude the final base should not be called synthetic. Now the base oils processed using the basic Ferguson GTL process believe should be in a different group all together, but considered synthetic since the root chemistry is not from decomposed ferns. Live in an oil town that produces 2\3 of the crude for CA. There are five basic oil fields and all of them have different concentrations of sulfur. Still believe that even if the high temperature, high pressure hydrocracking process removed most if not all of the sulfur, the product should not be considered synthetic.
 
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MolaKule

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Originally Posted By: Cokeboy
In my opinion if the base stems from crude directly out the ground no matter what processing is performed on the crude the final base should not be called synthetic...
But how much processing delineates say a GroupII or II+ and a GroupIII?
Originally Posted By: Cokeboy
...Now the base oils processed using the basic Ferguson GTL process believe should be in a different group all together, but considered synthetic since the root chemistry is not from decomposed ferns...
And some would argue that enough synthesis is done within the Group III isomerization process that it too should be a classified a synthetic. And, if one step in the overall process involves some sort of synthesis, does that make the finished lubricant a Synthetic? Just as PAO was placed into a separate API Group, I too believe any Group III or group III+ should be placed into a separate Group. However, whether it is a synthetic remains, IMHO, TBD. But as Tom in NJ stated, there is no incentive for the industry to self-police themselves now the marketing cat is out-of-the-bag. Some more info on the FT GTL process: http://petrowiki.org/Gas_to_liquids_(GTL)
 
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Originally Posted By: MolaKule
But how much processing delineates say a GroupII or II+ and a GroupIII? And some would argue that enough synthesis is done within the Group III isomerization process that it too should be a classified a synthetic. Just as PAO was placed into a separate API Group, I too believe any Group III or group III+ should be placed into a separate Group. However, whether it is a synthetic remains, IMHO, TBD.
I'd call those semi-synthetics... as opposed to synthetic blends
 

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Originally Posted By: Jetronic
Originally Posted By: MolaKule
But how much processing delineates say a GroupII or II+ and a GroupIII? And some would argue that enough synthesis is done within the Group III isomerization process that it too should be a classified a synthetic.
I'd call those semi-synthetics... as opposed to synthetic blends
I agree, the terms semi-synthetic can refer to a pure Grp III based oil, while the term synblend can refer to a mixture of Grp I & II with Grp III & IV & V This works well with Grp III+ / GTL being semi-synthetic, but I'm not too sure where the line is and whether Grp II+ should be classified as this or not. Also that will mean a Grp II and Grp III mixed base oil would be a semisynthetic-synblend. Nice. I think back in the early 90's I used Castrol TXT 10W-40 that was called Synthetic Technology and I believe it was a Grp III based oil and made for the new European cars (VW, Porsche, BMW, MB, Jag). It was before the Euro ACEA and Euro OEM specs that we see today appeared in their modern form. I think it was also before that "let's call Grp III a full synthetic" case happened. I used it in my shared sump motorcycles (it was before commercial bike oils too) and I was very impressed with it's ability to stay clean looking and not shear out and cause gear change problems. Compared to the regular oils I had access to (like GTX 20W-50) it lasted twice as long. I was pretty sad when they stopped selling it, I still have an old empty bottle of it at home.
 
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Originally Posted By: Cokeboy
Now the base oils processed using the basic Ferguson GTL process believe should be in a different group all together, but considered synthetic since the root chemistry is not from decomposed ferns.
And there is a school of thought that crude is not from decomposed ferns or critters, but from earth processes lower in the mantle called Abiotic. I tend to side more with that line of thought. Even if true, it is usually hard to crack established scientific thought. Romer determined speed of light in 1676 and was considered a crack pot by the scientific community until Bradley, using Romer's technique, confirmed it 50 years later (2 decades after Romer's death) and since then the scientific community has accepted it. While science is supposed to be objective, most scientists aren't and they bring their biases to the party.
 
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There's certainly SOME abiotic oil, and there's certainly SOME life process based oil. As to the split between the two, science is clearly on the latter at the moment...the only major abiotic proponents are the ones who want to feel that we can do what we are doing forever without depletion (even then, carbonate rocks are "finite" in a sense).
 
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If the original base is directly from the ground where mother nature was stirring the pot, oil made from this source should be classified as non synthetic. If the oil source is directly from an animal such as a spirm whale,this oil is also non synthetic. The oil that mimicks spirm whale chemistry should be classified as synthetic. The H & C elements have not been distroyed. Mother nature reformulates these elements into different configurations, constantly. What source makes better molecules, man or nature? Would place my bet on nature. For example take the wheat plant that was always getting wiped out by wind. The plant reformulated it's chemistry to better withstand the wind better than the man engineered hybrid, synthetic plant
 
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You guys still seem to think that oil production and bottling is some kind of technical, science based endeavor. 1. At least in most cases, oils from major companies are produced in a blending plant which could be owned by a major or some independent company. The amount of brands you see coming from the blenders is staggering. Especially when you really dont see many base oils. 2. Base oil comes in by rail car. Fifty or more additive totes which are fork lift-able sit around labeled with content; sulfur, zinc, moly, etc. 3. This is not some clean room lab experiment operation. A few different raw material additives are mixed in the base oil in a batching tank that just had some other oil batch through it. There is a mix design, but this is not an extremely accurate process. 4. The oil is bottled or transported in bulk from the blender. The major company never sees or distributes this end product. Each batch does go through the onsite lab, but Im not sure what tests are run.
 
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Jeff; Will your post dispel the romantic notion people have about different brands of lubricants and fluids, all of which could have been packaged from the same batch? Rail tank cars weigh up to 143 tons, their capacity is around 100 tons. The pds of the base oil is found in the shipper's document. When the majors talk about their base oil customers, they are referring to the blenders, not the consumer. In cases where the major owns blending, packaging and labels, that plant is the customer.
 
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MolaKule

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Originally Posted By: Jeff_in_VABch
...2. Base oil comes in by rail car. Fifty or more additive totes which are fork lift-able sit around labeled with content; sulfur, zinc, moly, etc. 3. This is not some clean room lab experiment operation. A few different raw material additives are mixed in the base oil in a batching tank that just had some other oil batch through it. There is a mix design, but this is not an extremely accurate process...
The batching tank is flushed before another, different formula is mixed. The resulting "flush" oil is mostly used for chain saw mixes. If another batch of the same formula of motor oil is to be produced, there is no need for flushing. With computer controlled blending, the mix is highly consistent from batch-to-batch. There are many contract blenders that produce different labels with the same formula, for example, Warren PP, Smitty's, etc.
 
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