Group III Synthetics

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Jun 2, 2002
Durham NC
Now that alll of the over the counter synthetics except Mobil 1 seem to be group IIII, my question is: which ones have the best additive packages? Everyone has loved to hate Castrol for their scamming the word synthetic, but it seems no one's hands are clean now. So, how good are Castrol, Valvoline, Pennzoil, and the other group III "synthetics." Does anyone have any data on their relative quality in the SL formulation?
Hi Henry, Welcome to the board: First let me say I spent some time in Durham last summer. What a beautiful town and nice folks.

Now for your question. If you look under my ID you will see I work for Pennzoil. I try my best to stay neutral on most topics, but on Group III synthetics I am very bias. Without getting technical, I will tell you why I believe Pennzoil is better. Castol and Valovline purchase their Group III basestocks on the open market. Mainly from Petro Canada (Castrol) and Mobil/Exxon (Valvoline). And, they may purchase some from Chevron. Now, these are good basestocks, but Castrol and Valvoline have no control in the production process. Pennzoil has it's own refinery in Louisiana where we make our own Group III and we have total quality control over it. Since we know everything about the basestock, we design an additive package that we believe works best with it.

Now there are a thousand other opinions about which one is best, and that is okay. Everyone can use their favorite brand of choice. I choose to use the Pennzoil.
Johnny, thanks for the welcome, and the kind words about the Bull City.

I understand your point (and your bias) that, by controlling all aspects of the process, Pennxzoil makes a superior Group III product. In other posts you have noted that standard Pennzoil is Group II+, which makes me go off topic some and ask: is there much practical difference between the Group III synthetics and a II+ standard SL?


Henry: Our tech department tells me that the Group III will withstand higher temps than the Group II+. I do not have the spec sheets in front of me, but if you go Pennzoil, Valvoline, or Castrol websites and look up the spec sheets, look towards the bottom of the spec sheets where it says Noak %. This is a volatility test and the lower the number the better. Now all of these are Group III oils. Then go to the Mobil website and look up Mobil 1. This is a PAO synthetic. I believe you will find the Group III's Noak test to be close to Mobil 1.

If you have never seen Group II or Group III basestocks before the additives are blended in, it is really amazing. Great technology. You can pour it into a clear glass and see right through it. Clear as mineral oil. I believe they made the claim when Group II's came out that it was 96% pure. The Group III's are said to be 99% pure. That's about as close to synthetic as your going to get from straight crude oil.
If oils made with group 3 are that close to synthetic, how come their pour points are still a lot less favorable than a real synthetic?
Hi Patman: To tell you the truth Patman, I don't really know. My thought process on this says it's still crude oil and what they do mainly helps the high temp resistance.

Terry, if your out there can you answer this question.
Pour point and most importantly pumpability are directly related to viscosity index (VI) in equal viscosity fluids.

Different synthetic bases have different pour points also.

Generally speaking if the VI is very high in equal viscosity base oils the pour point will be very low because the fluid could care less about the ambient temp.

Carbon chain uniformity and length is what causes the difference between a hydrocracked lube and a completely engineered fluid like a POE or PAO.

Cost is the reason for hydrocracking a group 2 or 3. The performance difference is minimal but the cost of producing a good with very little margin is a must for the larger companies if they want to survive.
Chevron sat on this technology (hydrocracking) for 20 years before licensing it in europe and finally Excel Paralubes plant Johnny alluded to.

I posted on Noria 3 years ago that these products would shake the "synthetic" specific companies because of the positive test results we saw then.

Most consumers will accept a 1 to 5% purity variation in the base stock. All the large lube companies have.
I don't get upset about the PAO vs. group 3 issue, what is and what isn't synthetic. Given the better margins in a group 3 "synthetic", I want to know if any company has used the savings to put together a really superior additive package to go with the group 3 base stock? Or is it just business as usual with that extra $$ going only to the bottom line?
I think that is the main problem Henry, it appears the companies are not making the oils better, they are simply using the savings of the lower cost base oil to line their pockets more. That's what makes me most angry when I hear of a synthetic oil using the hydrocracked stuff.
Bror -- I would guess that they kept the price at $4+ because, well, they make more money and because I think that they might actually lose market share if the price were lower. In marketing, items can command a premium price based on mind share alone; many times a price differential is not in the product itself, but in the perceoved "quality' of the product -- lowering prices have, in some cases, led to lower UNIT sales!

[ June 04, 2002, 02:32 PM: Message edited by: BOBISTHEOILGUY ]
Henry, I'm pretty sure you're right. My background is in marketing and I know about "perceived value".

That doesn't make me (a highly informed consumer) any happier, however.
I really hate Castrol. I used their GTX for years with great results, no problems whatsoever.

But, this Group-III-as-synthetic business really irks me. I saw their response to the infamous Patrick Bedard article and it was the worst kind of smarmy, misleading mistruth nonsense.
Now, of course, most mass-market producers have gone this route.

That out of the way, I'd really like to see some information that tests a Group III base oil against a PAO (w/ester) REAL synthetic. From all that I've seen the two formulations are close and I can see why the producers want to make this switch ... but I really resent the way they have kept the prices at $4+ per quart retail!
Johnny, what's your opinion of Quaker State Q, or Mobil 1 synthetics? Since Shell owns QS and Pennz, are they the same process?

I have a new normally aspirated Subaru, and was going to switch to synthetics, after 2 changes of mineral oil, and ran into the Group 3/synthetic situation. I picked up the Q and 1 on sale to save a few bucks. If the Sube was a turbo, I would go with a full synthetic, but just want a better oil at a more reasonable price. The group 3's sound like a good deal for less extreme motors or driving. I keep my cars a long time but don't put a lot of miles on them, and would like to keep sludge down, and have a better performing oil.


The way I influence the market, in my microscopic way, is to look for and buy the least expensive of the following oils: M1, Pennz Platinum, Quaker State Q, or Valvoline Synthetic. My engines seem to like all of them, based upon various UOAs, and I think all are quality products. My preferences, all other things equal, are PP and M1.

Thanks for the detailed info on volatility, Johnny. I'll be looking for that on data sheets. I've always thought M1 would have a slight advantage there, but it sounds like it may be closer than I thought.
yea, just joined the list, and the date looked like 07' before I posted, then thought someone had info.

Just getting into oils seriously with a new car. Had old cars for a while, and high mile wagon I got from my BIL to carry my hounds around it. It was missing a freeze plug and had to run water in with a hose to hear it run, and it was using a qt/100 mi from leaking valve cover gaskets, and was super slugged up from short trips. Had a valve tap and I tried an additive, and plugged up the oil pump pickup screen. I thought the pump went bad when the oil light came on. Changing the pump would have been a big job, and since the additive seemed to cause the problem. I thought sludge. Could see the pickup screen through the drain hole, so decided to try to bypass it, drilling a hole into the screened cup, and back flushed it. Got pressure and drove it for 6 more years.

I want to keep my 22 yr old Chevy running, and want to do the best for the new car oil wise, and thinking I could reuse the oil from the new one, if the better ones last as long as claimed, and have the best of things, since the new car gets little and all highway use. Looks like oil is more complicated than I thought.
Oh wow, I was reading this thread without noticing it was another old thread pulled from the past. The Pennzoil refinery in Louisiana making group III threw me for a loop. I have some of the old SJ and SL Pennzoil Synth made here in Shreveport but I knew that plant was long sold to Calumet. The stuff still works fine in my cars, though.
Oh and Vince, group III's are still fine oils and can perform along the lines of PAO in most situations. I certainly wouldn't worry too much in a n/a Suby. The real issue is right now, price wise, there's no difference. But still, you can't buy just off base oil. Try going over to the UOA forum and see which oils performed the best in your particular vehicle.
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