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Lubricant Reference - Base Oils


Petroleum is a naturally occurring complex mixture made predominantly of hydrocarbons and other compounds of carbon and hydrogen frequently containing significant amounts of nitrogen, sulfur, and oxygen as well as smaller amounts of metals. It can occur in solid, liquid, or gaseous form as asphalt, crude oil or natural gas. The economic importance of crude oil and natural gas has stimulated considerable interest in their origins, but because of their fluid nature they are mobile in the subsurface of the earth and may have accumulated far from the place where they were formed.
The overall process leading to the accumulation of petroleum in natural reservoirs can be summarized as follows: organic matter is incorporated into sediments as they are deposited; there is a possible shallow generation of biologically produced methane ; organic matter is converted to petroleum-like materials by the influence of increasing temperature with lower temperatures being partially offset by longer times; a small percentage of the lower molecular weight material that is generated subsequently migrates from the source rock through permeable carrier beds to the reservoir; and compositional changes may be produced in the oil in the reservoir by increasing temperature, water washing, and bacterial degradation.


A mineral oil base stock is a refined fraction of petroleum crude oil. Its characteristics are a result of the crude source and its refining techniques. Since petroleum crude oils are complex mixtures of many hydrocarbons varying from those of low molecular weights and relatively simple chemical structures on up to those of very high molecular weights and very complex structures, the first step in oil refining is fractions of roughly similar molecular weights. Since the boiling points of separation of the crude into various petroleum hydrocarbons are approximately proportionate to their molecular weights, distillation effects a separation of crude oils into fractions whose molecules are approximately similar in size or weight. Distillation does not, however affect any appreciable separation by molecular types, so that lubricating oil fractions obtained by distillation contain approximately similar proportions of paraffins, naphthenes and aromatics as present in the original crude.
Raw lubricating oil fractions accordingly require additional refining treatment in order to remove the undesirable constituents and to segregate the more suitable components in the finished stocks.
Waxy materials present in the base stock fractions may crystallize and agglomerate or congeal at low temperatures and thereby impede low temperature flow, These materials may be removed by solvent dewaxing processes employing solvents such as methylethyl ketone or propane, or by catalytic dewaxing.

These extraction and modification processes can be carried out either before or after final distillation into viscosity fractions. The choice depends on the processes employed.

The physical and chemical properties of the finished base stocks (often referred to as 'virgin') will not be solely a function of crude source, but also will be dependent on the processes employed and the extent of refining employed.


Certain chemical compounds have been found to be suitable as base stocks for engine oil. These are referred to as synthetic lubricants and are defined as having been produced by chemical synthesis. These are manufactured by organic reactions such as alkylation, condensation, esterification, polymerization, etc. Starting materials may be one or more relatively pure organic compounds. Generally of simple composition, these compounds are obtained by chemically processing fractions from petroleum, natural gas, vegetable, or animal oil components. When vegetable or animal oil base lubricants are natural,derived from non-petroleum sources rather than from synthesis, they are not considered synthetic lubricants unless the naturally occurring product has been chemically changed.

Classes of chemical compounds that might be used as synthetic base stocks after processing are shown in the following Table along with distinct generic identification of the resulting fluids. A synthetic lubricant base stock may consist of any of the fluids shown in the Table or a mixture of compatible base fluids. This blending is usually practiced to enhance physical properties.
Some synthetic base stocks are compatible with petroleum base stocks, and the two types may be blended to obtain desired physical and chemical properties.

Some synthetic base stocks are not compatible with other synthetics or with petroleum base stocks. Therefore, lubricants containing synthetic base stocks should not be indiscriminately mixed.

The additive agents necessary in petroleum base stocks, synthetic base stocks, or partial synthetic blends intended for engine oils are also synthesized materials. However, even though these materials are synthesized, they should be referred to as additives and not included in the base stock description.

Examples of Synthetic Base Fluids

Synthetic Hydrocarbons
Alkylated Aromatics Alkylbenzenes Polyolefins Polyalphaolefins (hydrogenated) Polybutenes

Organic Esters
Dibasic Acid Esters Adipates, Azelates, Dodecanedioates (diesters) Polyol Esters Neopentyl or Hindered Esters Polyesters Dimer Acid Esters

Halogenated Hydrocarbons Chlorofluorocarbon Polymers Fluoroesters, Fluoroethers Phosphate Esters Phosphate Esters of Isopropyl Phenol and Cresylic Acids Polyglycols Polyalkylene Glycols Polyphenyl Ethers Meta bis (m-phenoxyphenyl) benzene Silicate Esters Disiloxane Derivatives Silicones Silicones