ILMA Compoundings - March 2020 - 29

S

ince the dawn of the industrial
age, lubricants have powered
growing economies. Today, as
technology muscles its way into commerce and everyday life, synthetics are
filling demand for specialized lubricants that deliver high performance
for faster, more powerful machines -
from smartwatches to oil tankers.
"There were a lot of things you
could get away with in petroleum
30 or 40 years ago that aren't viable
anymore because the applications
are changing," said Chuck Leuth,
president and owner of PolySi Lubricants, a North Carolina-based custom
formulator of lubricants and greases.
"Everything's becoming smaller and
faster. All the things changing in your
daily life are true in industry as well."

THE STATE OF SYNTHETICS
The market for global synthetic lubricants reached $4.4 billion in 2018,
and compounded growth could climb
more than 5% through 2025, according to Grand View Research. Auto
manufacturers are driving demand,
seeking innovative applications in
engine oils, gearbox lubricants and
transmission oils. Industrial users, too,
seek innovative lubricants that deliver
high performance, varied temperature
operations and lower friction for the
factory floor and the products created.
What are synthetics? The name
says it all. They are chemically derived
lubricants, crafted in laboratories and
suitable for blending with base oils for
a wide world's range of purposes. As
many in the industry know, a 1999
ruling by the Council of Better Business
Bureaus' National Advertising Division
determined that some highly processed
crude oils can be labeled as synthetic due
to properties virtually indistinguishable
from synthetics. These oils fall under
Group III in American Petroleum Institute (API) 1509 base oil categories.
At the next level, the synthetics
known as polyalphaolefins (PAOs) are

Group IV lubricants. They offer high
viscosity index, high thermal oxidative
stability, low volatility and broader temperature ranges that make them useful
in cold and high-heat applications. Most
synthetic engine oils are PAOs.
All other synthetics are Group V.
They include PAGs, or polyalkylene
glycols, which offer excellent lubricity,
high viscosity index and thermal and
oxidative stability. Their uses include
metalworking, brake fluids, worm and
high-temperature gears and H1 foodgrade purposes.
Other Group V synthetics include
diesters and polyolesters, popular for
compressor oils and high-temperature
grease; phosphate esters (well-suited
where fire resistance is needed); and
silicones, which are suitable for hightemperature fluids and specialty greases.
The versatility of synthetics unlocks
the key to utilization across varied
spheres. When John Cummins and his
partners acquired a maker of an additives-enhanced mineral oil product,
they looked into the future and saw
rising demand for lubricants crafted
to meet specialized needs. Today,
that company, Texas-based Hydrotex,
where Cummins is vice president
of product technology, makes only
synthetics-based high-performance
lubricants and fuel improvers.
The primary purpose of lubrication
is reducing friction and wear, Cummins noted. In those areas, synthetics
outperform mineral oils up to 40%
in coefficient of friction, even before
additives, and as high as 80% in wear
tests. "The actual differences between
mineral oils and synthetics are kind of
incredible," he said.
As silicone prices spiked and supply
tightened in recent years, the broader
range of synthetic lubricants got a
market boost, said Leuth. While some
customers continue to rely on silicone
products, others have determined they
can get comparable characteristics

"You could put 1% of
synthetic base oil in a
formulation and call it a
synthetic blend. You could
put 20% in. There are no
criteria. That has hurt the
market because no one's
playing apples to apples."
John Garguiolo, president,
Reliance Fluid Technologies
and equal or better quality from other
synthetics - and they can do so more
easily and at a lower price.
Conventional oils are heavily
migrating to synthetic blends, noted
John Garguiolo, president of Reliance
Fluid Technologies in Niagara Falls,
New York. The emergence of new
high-quality Group III base oils in
recent years has significantly closed
price gaps between nonsynthetic
Group II oils and the synthetic blends
of Group III.
While Garguiolo's company, which
is an ISO 9001-certified manufacturer,
produces only products with API, ISO
and OEMs' approvals, other makers
can fudge their labeling due to a shortfall in recognized standards, he said.

29



ILMA Compoundings - March 2020

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ILMA Compoundings - March 2020 - Cover2
ILMA Compoundings - March 2020 - 1
ILMA Compoundings - March 2020 - 2
ILMA Compoundings - March 2020 - 3
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