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Thursday, 26 January 2012

Deciding on what oil to use for an application?

There’s a lot of controversy about deciding on what oil to use for  any given application, no matter if it be; what engine oil to utilize or whether to use synthetic hydraulic oil.

These are the factors you want to consider when deciding on what oil to use

Crude based oil, with no additives
The first and most well-known is mineral based oil with no additives. Some of these oils
are typically offered in the limited applications where no improvement to the base oil is necessary. Applications of this type include things like American Petroleum Institute (API) SA engine oil, barrier oils, seal oils, technical oils, etc.

Mineral base oils with additives
The second choice you have when deciding on what oil to use is mineral base oils with additives. These lubricants make up the majority of the commercially available lubricants in the marketplace nowadays. Applications of this type of lubricant include things like engine oil, hydraulic oil, turbine oil, gear oil, air compressor oil, etc. These types of lubricants are relevant except in high or low temperatures or where a aggressive environment is impacting the lubricant.

Synthetic Base Oils with Additives
The third kind is synthetic base oils with additives. These oils constitute a modest part of the total lubricant industry but their use is growing due to their popularity with many lubricant end users. For the past decade the end user, when wanting to know what oil to use, has been advised in passenger car motor oil advertising and marketing campaigns that these lubricants perform better than mineral-based oils. Due to the strategic advertising and marketing aimed at the general public for passenger car motor oil, many lubricant end users think that it’s far better to use synthetic motor oil for far better performance over other types of lubricant, regardless of the application.

And to befuddle the public even more when wanting to determine what oil to use is the fact that Synthetic base oils include many different types of compounds, some restricted to a solitary specific application. These synthetic-based oils are produced by many companies including major oil companies. Polyalphaolefin (PAO) is a leading product produced in the synthetic base oil market place. In the industrial lubricant grades, the synthetic lubricant typically will provide enhanced all round performance in comparison to the commercial mineral-based lubricant.

Enhanced Lubricants
The fourth range of oil to look at before deciding what oil to use, involves enhanced lubricants that are produced by a limited number of high-performance lubricant manufacturers that go beyond the synthetic vs. mineral oil issue to formulate a far better lubricant. In this school of thought engineers formulate lubricants for superior performance in a specific range of applications with out limitations to the base oil type or performance additives used. If the high-performance lubricant manufacturer believes that synthetic base oil with additives is needed for the application, then the lubricant is engineered with these guidelines. These manufacturers know that mineral base oil with correctly selected and balanced regular and proprietary additives can be formulated with a good treat level to provide superior application performance. Hence, the lubricant end user is given a lubricant that offers superior performance at the most economical cost for the application. In essence this makes deciding on what oil to use a whole lot less complicated – the oil is engineered for the application!

To describe the idea of formulating an enhanced lubricant that is application-specific, the good and bad points of both the mineral and synthetic base oils must be examined. Strengths of the synthetic-based lubricants include applications where high or low temperatures are expected or a aggressive environment would be detrimental to a mineral oil-based lubricant. Advantages of the mineral oil include enhanced additive solubility, natural oxidation stability characteristics, greater seal compatibility and lower base oil cost.

Weaknesses of the synthetic-based lubricants include: limited additive solubility, reversal of ester-based synthetic base oil to an acid, seal incompatibility with some seal materials, and a substantially higher cost per liter when compared to most mineral-based oils. Mineral-based oils have limitations in high- and low-temperature applications and specific atmospheres.

But the whole question of what is a synthetic oil, is very intricate and has been covered in depth in earlier articles. As has the evolution and classification of lubricant base oils

Why enhanced lubricants simplifies deciding on what oil to use

As mentioned earlier, the starting point in formulating is to decide if the application needs mineral or synthetic base oil and then determine what oil to use to attain superior application performance.

The next step is to decide what conventional additives and what quality levels are available around which to build the core of the lubricant. While commercial-grade lubricants are formulated only to a modest performance level, an enhanced lubricant is formulated well past this point. This is accomplished by looking for synergy with high-quality component additives that enhance the performance of the lubricant. Additional additive components are then added at optimal treat levels to guarantee the enhanced lubricant will achieve maximum performance for the specific application. If the formulation calls for synthetic base oil, the main issue is still the additive concentration needed for superior performance.

The 3rd and ultimate step of formulating an enhanced lubricant is choosing which proprietary additives to make use of. Through fundamental research and field performance, high-performance lubricant manufacturers could have a number of proprietary additives that work in specific applications and have demonstrated to enhance the performance of the lubricant. Several of these additives will be used to fine-tune the enhanced lubricant.

So the manufacturer produces a lubricant specific to the requirements, making it less complicated for the consumer to decide for themselves what oil to use

The importance of educating the customer on what oil to use

Once a lubricant end user knows what is involved in formulating an enhanced lubricant, it is easy to see where a synthetic lubricant may well not be the superior product when deciding what oil to use. Also, the price of the enhanced lubricant is now more warranted when the consumer decides on what oil to use, because he recognizes that there is a technology and overall performance level beyond that of the lubricant that has previously been used in the specific application.

In the continuous debate concerning synthetic versus mineral oils, the end user is interested in protecting the expenditure in his equipment. High-performance lubricant manufacturers can offer enhanced lubricants specifically formulated to provide optimum protection for the end user’s equipment. It’s up to the industry to educate consumers in order that they can correctly decide on what oil to use.

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