Synthetic Oils Review

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Synthetic Oils Review

Synthetic lubricants are produced from chemical synthesis rather than from the refinement of existing petroleum or vegetable oils. These oils are generally superior to petroleum (mineral) lubricants in most circumstances. 

Synthetic oils perform better than mineral oils in the following respects:

  • Better oxidation stability or resistance.

  • Better viscosity index.

  • Much lower pour point, as low as -46C (-50F).

  • Lower coefficient of friction.

The advantages offered by synthetic oils are most notable at either very low or very high temperatures. Good oxidation stability and a lower coefficient of friction permits operation at higher temperatures. The better viscosity index and lower pour points permit operation at lower temperatures.

The major disadvantage to synthetic oils is the initial cost, which is approximately three times higher than mineral-based oils. However, the initial premium is usually recovered over the life of the product, which is about three times longer than conventional lubricants. The higher cost makes it inadvisable to use synthetics in oil systems experiencing leakage.

Plant Engineering magazines Exclusive Guide to Synthetic Lubricants, which is revised every three years, provides information on selecting and applying these lubricants. Factors to be considered when selecting synthetic oils include pour and flash points; demulsibility; lubricity; rust and corrosion protection; thermal and oxidation stability; antiwear properties; compatibility with seals, paints, and other oils; and compliance with testing and standard requirements. 

Unlike Plant Engineering magazines Chart of Interchangeable Lubricants, it is important to note that synthetic oils are as different from each other as they are from mineral oils. Their performance and applicability to any specific situation depends on the quality of the synthetic base-oil and additive package, and the synthetic oils listed in Plant Engineering are not necessarily interchangeable.

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