Who really made the first synthetic oil?

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Nov 16, 2002
In North America, did Amsoil really have the first synthetic oil? I find it amazing that a small company beat a huge Mobil corp. to the punch. I'm curious as to how Amsoil did this because they are a blender? We know they buy there supplies from various vendors, so what exactly made Amsoil the first in synthetics is interesting. Another thing, does Lubrizol make a PAO base oil or are they just an additive company? Intersting stuff here.
My understanding is that AMSOIL was the first to have an API certified fully synthetic motor oil. Correct me if I'm wrong. That is why they have the "First In Synthetics" slogan. It was back in 1972.

[ October 03, 2003, 09:03 PM: Message edited by: Rat407 ]
The first synthetic oils were developed in Germany during the late stages of WW II since the allied bombings destroyed most refineries and cut the oil supplies off.

The first large scale commercially available synthetic was Mobil 1 coming to market in the 70s
I was under the perhaps mistaken impression that the Nazis developed the first synthetic lubricants during WWII.

that the Nazis developed the first synthetic lubricants during WWII

Right, but I meant North America or the US specifically. I think it's neat how little Amsoil started out and now they are pretty **** big and doing well.
Historical Facts(borrowed from wayback machine since synlube website was down)

C. Friedler and J.M. Crafts synthesize the first "synthetic" hydrocarbons.

Friedrich Bergius in Germany develops Hydrogenation process for production of synthetic oil from coal dust

Standard Oil in USA produces one barrel of synthetic oil from one ton of shale rock

Friedrich Bergius in Germany develops commercial process for hydrogenation of coal to synthetic oil

In Germany Franz Fisher and Hans Tropsch develop Synthetic Oil industrial production process

I.G. Farben acquired the patent rights to the Bergius hydrogenation process for production of synthetic oil from coal

I.G. Farben's Leuna works start synthetic oil production

Standard Oil of Indiana makes the first attempt at commercial development of synthetic hydrocarbons

Many gallons of synthetic oil were made by polymerization of different olefins.

Union Carbide and Carbon Corp develop and investigate the applications of water soluble Polyalkylene Glycol (PAG)

Nobel Prize for Chemistry:
Friedrich Bergius & Carl Bosch

Invention and development of chemical high pressure methods (used for synthetic oil production)

I.G. Farben investment into synthetic fuels production from coal

Adolf Hitler in Germany starts Major synthetic fuels and oil program

First Polyalphaolefins were synthesized

Fischer-Tropsh process that used carbon monoxide and hydrogen to make synthetic oils and fuels was commercialized in Germany

PAG synthetic oils used in fleets and commercial vehicles

10% of German supply of lubricating oil is "synthetic", made by using three different processes

US Army aircraft operating in Alaska and Canada use PAG engine oils

The idea of using colloidal solids in synthetic fluids for lubrication of the first jet engines is tested and researched in Germany

National Carbide Company, Inc. markets the "First" commercial PAG engine oils

Prestone Motor Oil

New York Power & Light Corp uses PAG engine oils in variety of their commercial vehicles.

Diester oils used in turbine engines because Petroleum oil simply was inadequate to meet the demands of these engines.

Texaco produces Synthetic Aircraft Turbine Oil

U.S. Army experiences significant problems in operating vehicles and equipment in Alaska with
MIL-L-10295 Lubricating Oil.

Mobil introduces fully synthetic grease

First Syn! Synthetic Super Lubricants produced in Canada

Motul introduces first semi-synthetic motor oil in France


U.S. Army develops MIL-L-46167 specification, which can be satisfied only with PAO synthetic oil

SynLube Company is formed in Vancouver, B.C. Canada – it’s specialty the first "syn-sol".

Arab Oil embargo prompts interest in "synthetic" oils

Motul in France introduces first all-synthetic oil in Europe

AMSOIL is formed and markets re-labeled MIL specification oils to motoring public through multi-level "pyramid" type organization.

Mobil test markets Mobil 1 synthetic SAE 5W-20 "synthesized engine lubricant"

Mobil 1 goes national in USA and changes the product description to "synthetic" motor oil

Mobil introduces second generation synthetic motor oil Mobil 1 available as SAE 5W-30 and 15W-50

SynLube in Canada produces first SAE 5W-50 all synthetic motor oil

Agip in Italy introduces synthetic motor oil SAE 10W-50

U.S. Army uses the MIL-L-46167 lubes in other than arctic conditions.

Mobil only in Europe introduces Rally Formula Mobil 1 synthetic motor oil SAE 5W-50

Quaker State introduces line of Synquest synthetic lubricants: grease NLGI No.2 GC-LB, motor oil SAE 5W-50 and gear oil SAE 75W-90

SynLube opens sales office in Las Vegas, Nevada USA

Chevron introduces synthetic motor oil

SAE 5W-30 and 5W-50

Mobil introduces Advanced Formula Mobil 1 motor oil SAE 5W-30, 10W-30 and 15W-50

Formulation of first SAE 0W-60 motor oil in Germany

Valvoline introduces synthetic motor oil

SAE 5W-30, 10W-30 and 20W-50

CASTROL introduces Syntec SAE 5W-50 motor oil based on PAO

Texaco introduces Havoline Synthetic motor oil SAE 5W-40

Pennzoil introduces Performax synthetic motor oil SAE 5W-50

Sunoco introduces DynaTech synthetic engine oils SAE 20W-50 and 5W-40

Sta-Lube launches marketing of synthetic gear oils and synthetic industrial grease

Pep Boys starts selling synthetic motor oil under their own brand name

SAE 5W-30, 10W-30 and 20W-50

Petrolon introduces synthetic motor oil under Slick 50 brand name

Synthoil starts marketing of SAE 10W-30 synthetic motor oil

CASTROL reformulates Syntec motor oils with API Group III (petroleum) base stock from Shell

SynLube introduces SynLube™ Lube-4-Life ®
"The FIRST oil you do NOT change" !

Mobil introduces Mobil 1 "Tri-synthetic" version of their motor oil

NAD rules that hydroisomerized base oils (Group III) can be classified as "synthetic oils"

Exxon and Mobil merges to ExxonMobil.

Mobil 1 introduces Synthetic-Blend motor oil

Mobil 1 introduces Synthetic motor oil with SuperSyn.

According to information that I came across, Standard Oil developed the first synthetic oil, and I believe that was in the 1930's. Most people believe that the Germans were the first in World War II.
Undummy - a great list of synthetic oil developments and most revealing
Daimler Benz and others used special "brews" ( fuel & oils ) in their pre-war 2 racing cars
FUCHS were making some "special" oils in the 1930s
Many of the large Oil Companies operated in Germany in the formative years from about 1920 until 1939. Most got the "fruits" of the German's developments after 1945.
Burmah-Castrol was one of these
Castrol ( Burmah etc. ) certainly feature much earlier with readily available synthetic engine oils, I purchased Castrol R ( not Castor based ) 10w-5o? in the mid 1970s. It was widely available in OZ in 1980.
Many synthetic gear oils ( eg - for use in worm drive axles )were available very early on too

Shell had synthetic gear oils readily available in the 1960s and I know that Caltex had some synthetic lubricants in use in the 1960s as well

An American blender "ORE-LUBE" was selling a "synthetic" in America the mid 1970s. I looked at becoming their Agent in NZ

I hope sombody else can assist in refining your very interesting list by adding other data

Although Amsoil was formed in 1972 as a multi-level markerting company, the owner and a group of industry chemists had been working on the formulation since the mid 1960's.

They say they were the first synthetic motor oil to meet American Petroleum Institute service requirements.

I first saw a can Amsoil at a gas station in around 1975 but did not try it till 1977 when I purchased a new Monte Carlo.

Looks like someone read my as this was going to be Outrun's topic of the day.

To second the above, it is my understanding the Wehrmacht used Synthetic oil on the grueling cold eastern front with Russia.

Or as the war stories go pertroleum stocks basically turned into goo in the crankases of the surface vehicles. German troops had to light fires underneath the oil pans to raise the oil to a flowable temperature for this one reason.

Synthetics were fielded by the Nazi's and the superior low temp fluidity of this oil promptly answered that issue.

Side note:

Other engineering innovations of the Germans: Ballistic Missiles, Cruise Missiles, Jet Propulsion, etc

Laying the American Foundation for Apollo and our ICBM force.

Originally posted by outrun:
Other engineering innovations of the Germans: Ballistic Missiles, Cruise Missiles, Jet Propulsion, etc

Laying the American Foundation for Apollo and our ICBM force.

The Germans were truly amazing. Hitler actually turned off R&D on new weapon's systems in I believe 1938 bc he thought he had the war won. They did pick up R&D later-but it was too late by then.

Oh and they also invented "Fly by Wire Ordinance"

One other point that was not mentioned about Synthetic History: Mobil's start in PAO's came during the late 60's in the Alaska North Slope. They introduced Mobil 1 in Europe and Japan in 1973-still behind Amsoil
Originally posted by unDummy:
[QB] Historical Facts(borrowed from wayback machine since synlube website was down)

Friedrich Bergius in Germany develops Hydrogenation process for production of synthetic oil from coal dust

Hydrogenation rang a bell. Synthetic (hydrogenated) vegetable oils were introduced here in the 20s and came into widespread use during WW II. The cold pressed linseed oils (flaxseed) and others, including lard and butter were replaced by the "refined" oils made from corn, soybeans, cottonseeds and lately, the genetically modified rape seed (Canola).

The first cases of Type II diabetes appeared exactly at the same time, increasing at a per capita rate in lockstep with the increased use of synthetic vegetable oils and margarines.

Synthetics for cars, not humans.

A note about the synthetics fuels from coal. I read that the patents and rights had been purchased by a large oil interest but can't remember the particulars.

Without a doubt, liquefied natural gas would be a tremendous ecological improvement as a fuel if mass marketed yet much of it is returned to the earth (Alaska) or burned off (Afrika and other locations.

Just some random thoughts.

The Germans were truly amazing.

Yeah ...so much so that the victors kinda divvied them up after the war. I seem to recall a line from the movie "Ice Station Zebra" where the statement went. "The stolen camera design built by the Russian German scientists that contained the film developed by the British German scientists was orbiting over Russia in the satillite built by the American German scientists..." ...or something like that...

Originally posted by buster:
In North America, did Amsoil really have the first synthetic oil? I find it amazing that a small company beat a huge Mobil corp. to the punch. I'm curious as to how Amsoil did this because they are a blender?


Wyoming’s minimum wage occurred in 1972 bringing it to the Federal level at that time of $1.60/hr.

Could Mobil sell oil that was $5/qt in 1972?? I can't imagine this possible.

Why was Amsoil successfull at selling back then??? The only reason is because of the MLM program. They had (skeptical) dealers that were able to face to face and get other skeptical customers to become dealers and sell more oil. Only 1 product back then. AMO 10w40!

I've talked to several dealers that were part of the original 5. Some even had to go to the plant in Superior to can their own oil. I've heard stories on how hard it was. If it were me back then. Amsoil would have failed!!
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