Synthetic Base Oils and Discussion

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Originally Posted By: MolaKule
Originally Posted By: fdcg27
Thanks for the detailed summary of how the various base oils are made along with their historical development... Also, many finished oils contain significant Grp IV content along with some Grp III. Should these oils be labeled as synthetics, blends or what? Can you see any potential for a more modern performance-based standard for finished oils in which any labeling related to basestocks would cease and only actual performance would matter?
As I stated in the White paper, finished motor oils are a mixture of different base oil Groups. I would suggest the following Labeling standards for the base oil percentages using only three categories: Automotive Full Synthetic Lubricant: 50% Group IV OR 50% GTL WITH the remaining 25% containing any combination of Group V components. Tolerance +, - 10% for improvements in base oil technology. Automotive Synthetic Blend: 40% of Group II WITH the remaining 35% containing any combination of Groups III, GTL, IV and V. Tolerance +, - 15% for improvements in base oil technology. Automotive Conventional: 70% Group II WITH the remaining 15% containing any combination of Groups III, GTL, IV and V. Tolerance +, - 20% for improvements in base oil technology.
Isn't anyone using group I any more? (I suspect I might be)
 
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Originally Posted By: MolaKule
Thanks Ms. Markum. cool [One of my English teachers]. smile
Great name for a teecha. Markum for life!
 

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Originally Posted By: Ducked
Originally Posted By: MolaKule
Originally Posted By: fdcg27
Thanks for the detailed summary of how the various base oils are made along with their historical development... Also, many finished oils contain significant Grp IV content along with some Grp III. Should these oils be labeled as synthetics, blends or what? Can you see any potential for a more modern performance-based standard for finished oils in which any labeling related to basestocks would cease and only actual performance would matter?
As I stated in the White paper, finished motor oils are a mixture of different base oil Groups. I would suggest the following Labeling standards for the base oil percentages using only three categories: Automotive Full Synthetic Lubricant: 50% Group IV OR 50% GTL WITH the remaining 25% containing any combination of Group V components. Tolerance +, - 10% for improvements in base oil technology. Automotive Synthetic Blend: 40% of Group II WITH the remaining 35% containing any combination of Groups III, GTL, IV and V. Tolerance +, - 15% for improvements in base oil technology. Automotive Conventional: 70% Group II WITH the remaining 15% containing any combination of Groups III, GTL, IV and V. Tolerance +, - 20% for improvements in base oil technology.
Isn't anyone using group I any more? (I suspect I might be)
A lot of Asian blenders are still using Group I. BTW, thanks for your comments. smile
 

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An expanded version of this paper will appear as an Article on BITOG's front page entitled, "A Review of Mineral and Synthetic Base Oils."
 
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Originally Posted By: MolaKule
Are there any technical questions?
So if I follow everything correctly, your point is that oligomerization, polymerization and esterification are all synthetic process while isomerization is not. Is that fair to say? --- By this definition, we narrowly define a synthetic base oil as by the process by which it is made rather than the physical properties or the chemical composition of the different fluids. (Although, I concede that it can easily be argued that chemical composition is what separates Group I-III from IV and V.) I guess where I may differ in my opinion is that I am more interested in the properties of base oil, than the process by which it arrives. For my purposes, the properties like: Oxidation, Rheology, Viscosity-pressure relationship, Solvency, volatility, elastomer capatibility, in some cases biocompatibility/toxicity, hydrolytic stability, corrosion resistance, miscibility are the deciding factors in base oil quality. The API sidesteps this in their base oil categories by not addressing any of these factors. Where "synthetic" has become synonymous with higher quality this presents a challenge to me, as Group III and Group III+ in my opinion have more desirable properties than some esters and even some PAO's.
 
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Originally Posted By: MolaKule
I would suggest the following Labeling standards for the base oil percentages using only three categories: Automotive Full Synthetic Lubricant: 50% Group IV OR 50% GTL WITH the remaining 25% containing any combination of Group V components. Tolerance +, - 10% for improvements in base oil technology. Automotive Synthetic Blend: 40% of Group II WITH the remaining 35% containing any combination of Groups III, GTL, IV and V. Tolerance +, - 15% for improvements in base oil technology. Automotive Conventional: 70% Group II WITH the remaining 15% containing any combination of Groups III, GTL, IV and V. Tolerance +, - 20% for improvements in base oil technology.
While these suggested labeling standards are an interesting idea - you know there is no way you would get any traction with this among any industry stakeholders (OEM's, Lubricant companies, Addco's etc)... Right?
 

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Originally Posted By: Solarent
Originally Posted By: MolaKule
Are there any technical questions?
So if I follow everything correctly, your point is that oligomerization, polymerization and esterification are all synthetic process while isomerization is not. Is that fair to say?
Yes. isomerization; the chemical process by which a compound is transformed into any of its isomeric forms, i.e., forms with the same chemical composition but with different structure or configuration and, hence, generally with different physical and chemical properties; the process by which one molecule is transformed into another molecule which has exactly the same atoms, but the atoms have a different arrangement. That doesn't tickle my fancy as being a synthesization process resulting in a synthetic product.
Quote:
From a processing standpoint, modern Group III base oils are manufactured by essentially the same processing route as modern Group II base oils. Higher V.I. is achieved by increasing the temperature or time in the hydrocracker. This is sometimes collectively referred to as the “severity.” Alternatively, the product V.I. could be increased simply by increasing the feed V.I., which is typically done by selecting the appropriate crude.
Originally Posted By: Solarent
By this definition, we narrowly define a synthetic base oil as by the process by which it is made rather than the physical properties or the chemical composition of the different fluids. (Although, I concede that it can easily be argued that chemical composition is what separates Group I-III from IV and V.) I guess where I may differ in my opinion is that I am more interested in the properties of base oil, than the process by which it arrives. For my purposes, the properties like: Oxidation, Rheology, Viscosity-pressure relationship, Solvency, volatility, elastomer capatibility, in some cases biocompatibility/toxicity, hydrolytic stability, corrosion resistance, miscibility are the deciding factors in base oil quality. The API sidesteps this in their base oil categories by not addressing any of these factors. Where "synthetic" has become synonymous with higher quality this presents a challenge to me, as Group III and Group III+ in my opinion have more desirable properties than some esters and even some PAO's.
The API and other organizations have sidestepped many important issues and have only contributed to the mounting confusion. What has become a "synthetic" in media hype is besides the point.
Quote:
Some authors have stated that the term “synthetic” was given a special meaning by the lubricants industry because these types of oils were the only components available for high-performance lubricants at that time. This is purely an attempt to obfuscate the issue. Since PAO (Group IV) and Ester base oils (Group IV) are synthesized base oils, what better phrase to use than, “Synthetic Lubricant?” Other authors and marketing media have attempted to further obfuscate the issue by using the word, “Performance,” in advertising media, as if ‘performance” somehow equaled “synthetic.” While Group III base oils approach the characteristics of Group IV base oils, “performance” is not a chemistry term, but rather an ambiguous term used by marketing.
What I, as a purist am trying to accomplish and point out, is the we must have a definitive statement about the definition of a synthetic base oil is before we can go any further in reducing confusion.
 
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Originally Posted By: MolaKule
isomerization; the chemical process by which a compound is transformed into any of its isomeric forms, i.e., forms with the same chemical composition but with different structure or configuration and, hence, generally with different physical and chemical properties; the process by which one molecule is transformed into another molecule which has exactly the same atoms, but the atoms have a different arrangement. That doesn't tickle my fancy as being a synthesized product.
See this is where you as a purist separates from my opinion is that I believe that synthesizing a new molecular structure isn't too far off of synthesizing a new molecule from separate reactants. Both ways require catalysts, energy input and controlled conditions to produce what is in fact a new molecule with different physical and chemical properties than the original materials. I find that structure is important and by my definition when you change the structure it's a form of synthesis. That said, all my textbooks that talk about the chemistry of lubricants agree with you.
 
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Also where do you come down on Alkylation? Synthetic process or not? The reason I ask is AN base oils are Group V which by your whitepaper are synthetic. This is another reason I question such a wooden definition of synthetic based on process vs physical and chemical properties.
 

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Originally Posted By: Solarent
Originally Posted By: MolaKule
isomerization; the chemical process by which a compound is transformed into any of its isomeric forms, i.e., forms with the same chemical composition but with different structure or configuration and, hence, generally with different physical and chemical properties; the process by which one molecule is transformed into another molecule which has exactly the same atoms, but the atoms have a different arrangement. That doesn't tickle my fancy as being a synthesized product.
See this is where you as a purist separates from my opinion is that I believe that synthesizing a new molecular structure isn't too far off of synthesizing a new molecule from separate reactants. Both ways require catalysts, energy input and controlled conditions to produce what is in fact a new molecule with different physical and chemical properties than the original materials. I find that structure is important and by my definition when you change the structure it's a form of synthesis. That said, all my textbooks that talk about the chemistry of lubricants agree with you.
Appreciate your comments and this is where we can discuss and debate this technical issue in a friendly atmosphere apart from media hype and conferences cluttered with MBA's. grin2
 
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Originally Posted By: MolaKule
Originally Posted By: Ducked
Originally Posted By: MolaKule
Originally Posted By: fdcg27
Thanks for the detailed summary of how the various base oils are made along with their historical development... Also, many finished oils contain significant Grp IV content along with some Grp III. Should these oils be labeled as synthetics, blends or what? Can you see any potential for a more modern performance-based standard for finished oils in which any labeling related to basestocks would cease and only actual performance would matter?
As I stated in the White paper, finished motor oils are a mixture of different base oil Groups. I would suggest the following Labeling standards for the base oil percentages using only three categories: Automotive Full Synthetic Lubricant: 50% Group IV OR 50% GTL WITH the remaining 25% containing any combination of Group V components. Tolerance +, - 10% for improvements in base oil technology. Automotive Synthetic Blend: 40% of Group II WITH the remaining 35% containing any combination of Groups III, GTL, IV and V. Tolerance +, - 15% for improvements in base oil technology. Automotive Conventional: 70% Group II WITH the remaining 15% containing any combination of Groups III, GTL, IV and V. Tolerance +, - 20% for improvements in base oil technology.
Isn't anyone using group I any more? (I suspect I might be)
A lot of Asian blenders are still using Group I.
I ask because I didn't notice it mentioned in your above classification scheme.
 

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Originally Posted By: Ducked
I ask because I didn't notice it mentioned in your above classification scheme.
That's because Group I oils will not satisfy any of the requirements for future oils, such as the LV and VLV oils.
 
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Originally Posted By: Solarent
Also where do you come down on Alkylation? Synthetic process or not? The reason I ask is AN base oils are Group V which by your whitepaper are synthetic. This is another reason I question such a wooden definition of synthetic based on process vs physical and chemical properties.
Does this mean my explanations are "grainy.?" smile I agree with these authors who think AN's are synthesized products as well:
Originally Posted By: Tribology Transactions, 50: 82-87, 2007
...SYNTHESIS OF ALKYLATED NAPHTHALENES There is an extensive body of research on the alkylation of naphthalene. This paper will present only a brief introduction to selected aspects of the synthesis of alkylated naphthalenes. Alkylated naphthalenes are most easily prepared by the Friedel-Crafts alkylation of naphthalene with an alkylating agent in the presence of an acid catalyst (Fig. 2). Although almost any alkylating agent, such as an alcohol, an alkyl halide, or an olefin, may be used, the most commonly used alkylating agent is an olefin. Out of many possible alkylating olefins, the most commonly used olefin for a lubricant base stock is an alpha-olefin in which the double bond resides at one terminus of the alkyl chain. Under normal Friedel-Crafts conditions the reaction produces a complex mixture of alkylated naphthalenes having different numbers of alkyl groups on the naphthalene ring. The naphthalene alkylation reaction depends on many factors such as the catalyst type, temperature, ratio of the alkylating agent to naphthalene, and the manner in which the reactants are combined. Many different types of catalysts are suitable for the reaction including Lewis acids, strong protic acids, heterogeneous solid catalysts such as zeolites, or acid-treated clays...
 
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Originally Posted By: Solarent
...By this definition, we narrowly define a synthetic base oil as by the process by which it is made rather than the physical properties or the chemical composition of the different fluids. (Although, I concede that it can easily be argued that chemical composition is what separates Group I-III from IV and V...)
I am arguing: What is the criteria by which we should Define a Synthetic Base oil? That criteria I say is that a true synthetic base oil is created by and supported by the narrow chemical definition of synthesis. As a related hypothetical story, let's say I am designing a shaft for an aeroturbine engine. I specify a steel with the exact metallurgical (elemental) content, the thermal processing, the dimensions of the shaft, the balancing process, and the lubricant to be used. As to the oil to be used, I will specify a Synthetic Aviation Oil, say Mobil Jet II because of several reasons, including oxidation stability and AW capabilities. According to some people in the lubricants industry, I could use or should use an Isomerized Group III because in some industry literature it is called a, "synthetic." If we take this argument one step further, and equate it to the above statement, these same people might tell me I don't need titanium or vanadium in the shaft's metallurgical mix because, "the definition of steel is... and any ole mix of elemental components will do". ???
 
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Great post - good work! thumbsup If I may, a couple of things from me: - whilst you carefully use the term "synthetic group V" where appropriate, you don't expand on group V as a category, leaving the inference that group V is a synthetic category. This is a widely held belief, but as you know it is wrong. Group V contains a lot of synthetic fluids, but it is defined by the API as "...all other base stocks not included in Group I, II, III, or IV." Therefore as well as your esters, ANs, PAGs, PIBs and such it also includes myriad other, non-synthetic base oils, such as medium- or low-VI mineral oils, naphthenics, aromatics, vegetable oils and so on. Many people use the term "group V" as a proxy for "super-high-performance-synthetics" (or usually "group V = ester") and often this is true, but you have to be careful to be accurate. There are plenty of group V base oils I would not want anywhere near an engine. - plenty of Group I used in Europe - there's not a lot of group II availability so group I is used where appropriate. Any high volume, low performance oil can use it (eg industrial hydraulic/turbine/gear oils) and in oils for older generation engines it is perfectly capable, so long as you don't need the low temperature cover.
 
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From a purist standpoint I agree with MolaKule that a "synthetic" product is one made by "synthesis", which in chemistry is a process generally defined as “The formation of a complex compound by the combination of two or more simpler compounds, elements, or radicals" (Webster's Dictionary). The SAE published a similar definition prior to the introduction of Group IIIs defining synthetic base oils as "Chemical compounds...produced by chemical synthesis...and manufactured by organic reactions...from relatively pure organic starting materials". (The SAE dropped all descriptions of "synthetic" in 1996 when the Group III controversy took off). These definitions were intended to differentiate synthetics from base oils produced from extraction or refining methods. In other words, synthetic refers to a process rather than the end product. That said, I agree with Solarent that the definition line gets pretty thin considering that severely hydrocracked base oils do employ a process that creates new molecules (like synthesis), but by rearranging existing molecules into new molecules rather than by combining simpler compounds through chemical reaction. Perhaps this is a distinction without a difference. From a practical standpoint, it really doesn't matter since the industry has accepted Group III base oils as "Synthetic", whether we agree or not, and after nearly 20 years it will not change, and we cannot change it. Even the long attempt to promote the term "True Synthetic" has never been recognized or accepted by any industry group or the consuming public. The word synthetic developed value over many decades and now marketers, with the blessing of the NAD, are exploiting that value to the point of rendering the word meaningless, i.e. a single VI point distinction. That's what marketers do, extract value, and often don't let reality get in the way. Tom NJ/VA
 
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Originally Posted By: MolaKule
As a related hypothetical story, let's say I am designing a shaft for an aeroturbine engine. I specify a steel with the exact metallurgical (elemental) content, the thermal processing, the dimensions of the shaft, the balancing process, and the lubricant to be used. As to the oil to be used, I will specify a Synthetic Aviation Oil, say Mobil Jet II because of several reasons, including oxidation stability and AW capabilities.
See, I get in to heated discussions with OEM engineers (and other engineers who are generally completely ignorant in lubricants) about why they specify a "Synthetic" Aviation Oil. In your hypothetical story, you want to use Mobil Jet II because of physical properties and performance capabilities. You choose a synthetic because you believe this oil will provide you the necessary properties to ensure performance. What difference does it make how I as a lubricant blender get there whether it is PAO/PAG or Group III + Additives? You are comparing it to metallurgical decisions - but in most applications the chemical composition of the lubricant is second to the performance and physical attributes. I would rather define my lubricant and base oil on physical properties rather than the process by which I reach those physical properties.
 
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Originally Posted By: Tom NJ
Perhaps this is a distinction without a difference.
This may just be semantic, but essentially we are talking about "synthesized" base oils vs "synthetic" base oils.
Originally Posted By: Webster
Definition of synthetic 1 :relating to or involving synthesis :not analytic the synthetic aspects of a philosophy 2 :attributing to a subject something determined by observation rather than analysis of the nature of the subject and not resulting in self-contradiction if negated — compare analytic 3 :characterized by frequent and systematic use of inflected forms to express grammatical relationships synthetic languages 4 a (1) :of, relating to, or produced by chemical or biochemical synthesis; especially :produced artificially synthetic drugs synthetic silk (2) :of or relating to a synfuel b :devised, arranged, or fabricated for special situations to imitate or replace usual realities c :factitious, bogus
Webster's use of the term "relating to" could be expanded to include isomerization - not quite synthesis, but in the ballpark... I also like 4b. as an alternative definition.
 
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Originally Posted By: Solarent
Originally Posted By: Tom NJ
[quote=Webster]Definition of synthetic 1 :relating to or involving synthesis :not analytic the synthetic aspects of a philosophy 2 :attributing to a subject something determined by observation rather than analysis of the nature of the subject and not resulting in self-contradiction if negated — compare analytic 3 :characterized by frequent and systematic use of inflected forms to express grammatical relationships synthetic languages 4 a (1) :of, relating to, or produced by chemical or biochemical synthesis; especially :produced artificially synthetic drugs synthetic silk (2) :of or relating to a synfuel b :devised, arranged, or fabricated for special situations to imitate or replace usual realities c :factitious, bogus
Webster's use of the term "relating to" could be expanded to include isomerization - not quite synthesis, but in the ballpark... I also like 4b. as an alternative definition.
4c also seems to validate the use of the word synthetic for Group III. wink Ed
 
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Originally Posted By: edhackett
4c also seems to validate the use of the word synthetic for Group III. wink Ed
LOL LOL LOL You just made my day. Best comment of the thread so far!
 
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