Message 14

Hydrotreated petroleum oil can now be legally called synthetic. Here are the emails sent to our subscribers explaining all about it. Start at MESSAGE ONE, then TWO etc..

Message 14

Postby ogrady » 2005 Wed Nov 02, 12:45 pm

Synthetics: Time to Draw the Line


Here's the final, (I believe) article from 'Lubes-n-Greases'regarding the artifical definition of Synthetics.

- THOMAS F GLENN, Lubes-n-Greases, October 2004

'The Synthetic Definition of Synthetics' Part 3

The first in this series of columns on synthetic lubricants ("The Synthetic Definition of Synthetics," July) observed that to the consumer, synthetic and synthetic blend engine oils are defined as "the good stuff." They're the top-shelf lubricants that cost a lot and significantly outperform others.

In addition, they're a growing market segment with a bright future. The objective of that column, and the two that followed, was not to sing the praises of synthetics, nor to promote their use. Rather, the series was written because some in the industry have expressed deep concern that the
terms "synthetic" and "synthetic blend" are being diluted and polluted, and that some formulators and marketers are quietly exploiting the fact that there is no official definition for synthetic base stocks and no minimum requirement for the synthetic portion of a synthetic blend lubricant.

This has resulted, they charge, in products that leverage the good name of synthetics to capture a premium price

- without delivering on premium performance.

Furthermore, the purists point out, formulators and blenders that "take the high road" do so at a cost disadvantage versus those that don't. In their minds, it's a wrong that needs to be righted.

But who's to say what's right and what's wrong, what's the high road and what's not? After all, there truly are no rules, regulations or minimums defining the use of the term synthetic in our industry.

Should there be? That's what Petroleum Trends International asked a number of industry leaders. Following are their thoughtful and sometimes surprising answers:

"The bottom line is that the consumers (the innocent) need to be protected and that's difficult to do when there are no rules defining what synthetics are or how much must be used in a blend. Although a licensing program could help to protect the consumer of automotive products, it will be much more challenging to address this issue in industrial lubricants."

-James L. Kudis, vice president, Allegheny Petroleum Products Co.

"There is an opportunity for the industry to step up and define a minimum standard for synthetics and synthetic blends. And this standard should be driven by an industry body, not individual formulators. A minimum standard helps to protect the consumer, and at the same time still provides room for the top tier formulators to differentiate products."

- Michael J. DeBiasi, brand manager Castrol Syntec and Synthetic Blend, BP Lubricants

"History has shown that the lubricants industry is not particularly disciplined and voluntary industry standards are not realistic. You only have to look at the proliferation of SA oils to understand how the market behaves when money is involved.

Consumers would benefit from a label identification that defines what synthetic is being used or how much in the case of blends."

- Mark Pernick, global business manager Chevron Phillips Chemical Co.

"The integrity of our industry is best served if we are able to deliver differentiable value to our consumers. A minimum requirement for these products, enforced by industry, helps to assure that the consumer is at least getting the promised value. Oil marketers who make the investment in these products, which deliver against promised performance, are then appropriately rewarded."

- Peter Fuentes-Afflick, manager, consumer automotive, Chevron Texaco North America Lubricants

"A better definition of synthetics is needed. The average consumer is challenged to understand engine oil specifications, viscosity grades and licensing marks.
Marketers have a responsibility to convey the properties and capabilities of their products in clear and understandable terms. Some oil marketers are 'redefining' certain components as synthetics that do not meet the definition of the word as commonly understood by the consumer.
Such redefinitions only add confusion and do not properly serve the consumer."

-Jon Rummel, manager, product technology and services, Citgo Petroleum

"Defining minimum synthetic base oil content is vital for the synthetic blend category to have any true meaning in the marketplace."

-Lou Burke, manager, commercial lubricants, ConocoPhillips

"Although the API base oil readacross guidelines establish unspoken rules governing how synthetic blends are made, the automotive industry would certainly benefit from minimum requirements and clearer definitions. But at the same time, the marketplace is being misdirected by the majors and others and we are now getting too hung up on base oil types when in fact, it's performance that counts."

-Scott Schwindaman, executive vice president, Lubrication Engineers

"Consistent with the NAD [National Advertising Division] definition, polyalphaolefins and API Group III base oils afford a platform for developing synthetic motor oils that are demonstrably superior to their conventional motor oil counterparts. Similarly, synthetic blends afford the same opportunity, but at a somewhat lower level to the full synthetics. We feel it is a marketer's responsibility to develop the motor oil's capability and give the consumer value for the money spent, which is why we formulate our synthetic motor oils to meet standards in excess of those designed for typical passenger car service. These standards are out of reach for conventional motor oils."

-Jim Newsom, global product manager for North American passenger car motor oils, Shell Oil Products US

"We are satisfied with the NAD's definition for synthetics and believe a hard definition for synthetic blends would not improve the quality of products. Furthermore, it will not stop some from marketing synthetic blends that offer benefits no greater than they would get from conventional lubricants."

- Thom Smith, technical director, Valvoline

Rather than passing judgment or declaring what's right and what's wrong, this series has tried to hold a mirror up to the industry and ask if it likes what it sees. If not, this may be a defining moment.

Remember, at the end of the day the consumer believes that synthetics and synthetic blends are top-shelf lubricants that cost a lot and significantly outperform others.

Although it's clear they still cost a lot, can we all honestly say the same about their performance, when there are no standards or minimums defining the use of the term synthetic?


Answer? YES... when you buy from companies who go out of their way to deliver product that performs not to just minimum industry standards but BACKS their mission statement of delivering top quality by PUBLISHING their performance results as found by the findings of independent labs.

Know a company that does this in North America?


Drive safe!

Sean Aughey
Are you still on the 3,000 mile oil change treadmill? Put some convenience in your life!
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Joined: 2005 Wed Jan 05, 8:05 pm

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