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Which AMSOIL Products Are Recommended
For Your Vehicles?
Is Your Synthetic Motor Oil
There is a disturbing trend
in the oil industry that is misleading consumers. That trend
is the playing of word games with the use of the word “synthetic”
on motor oil labels.
The following article is a reprint
from the August 2000 issue of “Lubricants World”, an oil industry
trade magazine. This information is usually not available
to most consumers.
AMSOIL continues to use the
highest quality basestocks in its motor oils and will always
put quality and performance before price. AMSOIL costs more
than other brands but you always get more for your money than
you will with the other brands. That is why AMSOIL outperforms
the other brands in the NOACK Volatility Test and the Four-Ball
Wear Test. THAT is why AMSOIL is THE extended drain oil. AMSOIL
is the “TRUE” synthetic.
in Lubricants World August 2000 by Katherine Bui
Marketers Take Advantage of "Synthetic" Ruling
Last year, Castrol (Swingdon,
U.K.) and Mobil (Fairfax, VA) brought the debate over what
is “synthetic” into view, as Mobil challenged Castrol’s replacement
of polyalphaolephins (PAOs) with hydroisomerized waxes in
their synthetic formulations. Exactly one year after the National
Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business
Bureaus’ ruling in April 1999, upholding Castrol’s position
that wax isomerates could be called synthetic, Petro-Canada
(Toronto) advertised it would be referring to its very high
viscosity index (VHVI) basestocks as a synthetic in the North
American market. These products fall into the same API group
(Group III) as wax isomerates, but could vary significantly
in quality from wax isomerates. This market roar by Petro-Canada
has carried a quiet undertone of moves from PAO to VHVI technology
by several engine oil marketers.
The definition of synthetics
aside, cost factors and performance continue to drive marketers
to carefully asses the use of PAOs and Group III stocks (VHVIs).
In the past year, several marketers have made the jump from
PAOs to VHVI-based "synthetics." VHVIs cost approximately
half what PAOs do and, according to VHVI producers, perform
at a level comparable to PAOs in formulated oils. Yet, Mobil
1, which has the strongest hold on the synthetic market (estimated
by one analyst at 60.4%) and factory-fill contracts with Corvette
and Porsche, continues to dominate the overall synthetic market
with its PAO technology. On the other hand, Castrol, whose
market share of Syntec synthetic oil was virtually nonexistent
6 years ago, now has more than 20% of the market.
ExxonMobil could not resist the appeal of competitive pricing.
It released a new synthetic blend that combines PAO technology
with a "high-quality conventional oil" in February.
If the market projections are
any indicator, simply using the word "synthetic"
in any shape or fashion may guarantee a piece of the pie.
Synthetics and semi-synthetics make up only a niche 3%-6%
of the automotive oil market (June LW, p.30). ExxonMobil
holds the largest share in the market, followed by Castrol,
Pennzoil-Quaker State, and Valvoline.
Demand, however is expected
to grow 5.7% per year, to 115 million gallons in 2003, because
of increased desire for high-performance products, longer
drain intervals, and lower emission formulations, according
to estimates from The Freedonia Group (Cleveland). However,
at least on market analysis says the consumer's lack of knowledge
about synthetics and the higher cost of the finished product
compared with conventional oil are not conductive to growth.
The overall conventional motor oil market is projected to
Making the Move from
PAO to VHVI
Current market trends, cost,
and the "open-door" policy established by the NAD
ruling have attracted a number of marketers this past year
to the VHVI technology and use of the term "synthetic."
Castrol's substitution of wax
isomerates for PAO after December 1997 was the basis of the
contoversal ruling by the NAD regarding the marketing use
of the word "synthetics." But with its buyout by
BP Amoco, Castrol may have to re-evaluate the components of
its formulation relative to the value of supply chain. BP
has been one of the larger refiners and producers of PAO.
LW was unable to obtain comments from Castrol at press time.
However, BP Amoco Chemicals'
Joe Svoboda, PAO market manager, says, "Castrol has basically
been set up as a stand alone business unit within BP. Its
position on Group III vs. Group IV will be based on what is
best for its business." He notes that "Castrol is
a leading global marketer of high-performance lubricants.
Its position on PAO likely differs from region to region -
particularly in Europe, where stringent lubricant performance
requirements often mandate the use of PAO."
Brent Lok, production manager
for base oils at Chevron Products Co. (San Ramon, CA), says,
"We struggle with a similar situation in that we produce
both PAOs and VHVIs. However, I think that the marketplace
often dictates the operations, and the companies often have
very little choice in the matter."
Valvoline (Lexington, KY), which
declines to detail the type of base oil technology it uses,
continues to advertise its VR1 Racing Synthetic Motor Oil
as a "blend of thermally stable base oils."
VHVI refiners such as Chevron
Products, which holds the licensing rights to the hydroisomerization
technology (Isodewaxing), says they have seen an increase
in sales of Group IIIs based on "cost/performance balances."
"We have seen a huge upswing in the sales activity of
our Group III base oils that could be measured in folds,"
says Lok. "Even with increased sales activity, many in
the industry are still in a gestation period, where additive
companies along with researchers are tinkering with the packages
and formulations to address this switch." He says the
big driver for change is the cost/value tradeoff in all synthetic
lubricant segments. Specifically in the passenger car motor
oil (PCMO) segment, GF-3 offers a window of opportunity for
formulators to reevaluate their basestock choices because
reformulation will be necessary to meet the new performance
specifications, he says.
Pennzoil-Quaker State (Houston)
Product Manager James Newson told LW during an interview 2
months ago that the company is currently using PAOs to formulate
its full synthetic. “
"Since the beginning of
this issue, we have looked at every option at a very detailed
level." He says. "And we have found some of the
nonconventional synthetics very intriguing."
76 Lubricants (Costa Mesa, CA),
a marketer of synthetics both in the PCMO and industrial oil
segments of the industry, currently produces a "limited
slate of synthetics" formulated with PAOs. However the
company admits, research into the use of VHVI in ongoing.
"We will likely be offering such products in the near
future," says Steve Tarbox, 76 Lubricants' product manager
for engine oils and automatic transmission fluids (ATFs).
"Moving some existing product formulations from PAO to
Group III basestocks always requires additional testing to
both comply with any product licensing requirements (engine
oils and ATFs for example) and also to provide existing customers
the assurance and documentation that familiar products still
provide the full range of performance benefits they have come
to know and expect from their synthetic lubricant." Tarbox
says adherence to American Petroleum Institute (API; Washington)
and ATF licensing practices also precludes 76 Lubricants from
making changes in certain product families without assuming
significant test costs.
Petro-Canada, which initiated
the recent public marketing of VHVI synthetics, announced
on June 8 that it had completed the testing for its specialty
base fluid in a 5W-40 grade engine oil. The test was conducted
on a formulation designed to meet the VW 502/505 specification,
with 30% VHVI in place of PAO basestock.
"With this new certification,
we offer blenders an alternative specialty base fluid that
provides increased performance at a less expensive price,"
says Henry Fuchs, marketing manager for specialty base fluids
and automotive lubricants at Petro-Canada. Fuchs says the
company will continue to develop products that will meet specifications
As part of its claims, Petro-Canada
says the company uses "the unique patented HT Severe
Hydrocracking, Hydroisomerization and Hydro-Finishing process
to produce the clear, colorless base fluid that is 99.9% pure
and highly isoparaffinic." The company also says the
"high-quality" base oil minimizes the effects of
aromatics, sulfur, and nitrogen impurities removed, and balances
a high viscosity index with low temperature fluidity and oxidative
and thermal stability. At press time, LW had been unable to
obtain a comment from Petro-Canada about marketing strategies
for its new product.
"I don't expect we will
see the lubricant marketers advertising components of the
synthetic as we see here," says Lok. "Marketers
are more interested in marketing the performance and their
Mobil 1, whose PAO technology
was one of the many trade secrets that changed hands during
the merger between Exxon and Mobil, remains loyal to PAOs.
However, even ExxonMobil could not resist the appeal of competitive
pricing. It released a new synthetic blend that combines the
PAO technology with a "high-quality conventional oil"
in February of this year.
"Since Mobil has the most
experience with the PAO technology, their ability to manufacture
a blended, semi-synthetic product would probably offer them
some advantage in the automotive market," says Jerry
Shelby, president of Lubrication Consultant and Lubrecon (Houston).
LW was unable to obtain comment from ExxonMobil about its
PAO technology by press time.
Mark Pernik, global business
manager for Chevron Chemical Company LLC, says his company
has not seen PAOs displaced out of PCMO applications, though
he admits Chevron Chemical is not a big player in the PCMO
market. "Still, the VWT4 standard in Europe has demonstrated
that PAO sales have not skewed and have in fact increased
in position," says Pernik.
In addition, BP Amoco Chemicals'
Svoboda says, "We have seen some tempering of growth
for PAO in North America. We attribute this to the increasing
availability of Group IIIs. However, on an international level,
PAO demand continues to grow at a rapid pace. PAO in Europe
is more than double that of North America. Europe continues
to be a strong growth engine for PAO. This is based on the
European OEM (original equipment manufacturer) drive for higher
performance and by environmental considerations, such as emission
reduction and extended drain intervals." He agrees with
Pernik that the PAO market remains strong in Europe and that
eventually the rest of the world will follow the higher performance
requirements established there.
The primary downside to the
NAD ruling and any resulting replacement of PAOs with VHVIs,
says Svoboda, "is that North American PCMO consumers
will not be getting the higher quality performance level offered
by the PAO. Despite claims of equivalent performance, PAO
continues to maintain its superior performance over Group
IIIs under extreme operating conditions, particularly with
regard to low-temperature performance and high-temperature
Yet, when LW asked
several industry experts about the NAD ruling, their feelings
regarding market effects were mixed (LW, Oct. 1999, p. 30;
Nov. 1999, p. 35). A Castrol representative then stated the
VHVIs would be competitive with PAOs and that the consumer
would benefit from that competition.
A PAO expert disagreed, saying
the NAD decision would have minimal impact on the formulation
of synthetics. "The quality of Group III products in
inconsistent, and their physical properties are different
from one manufacturer to the next," he says. If the industry
heads in the direction of replacing PAO with VHVI, he says,
"consumers will be misled and the high margin niche that
has been developed by present-day synthetics will erode."
Barrett Cupples, a consulting
scientist who worked with PAOs at Chevron Chemical for 20
years, cautions marketers against directly switching from
PAOs to VHVIs without adequate testing. "According to
API base oil guide lines, Group III stocks may not simply
be substituted for PAOs in motor oil formulation," he
says. "Any switch will require extensive testing to ensure
that the final product fully meets the requirements of that
Further downstream, the players
in the synthetic PCMO market - Castrol, Pannzoil-Quaker State,
and Valvoline - have each released reformulations and new
blends in the past several months. The reason for this interest,
according to one industry market analysis, is the competitive
nature of the market, the projection for market growth, and
the re-awakening of cost savings in blends.
"Though synthetics will
exhibit strong growth through the end of the 20th century,"
says The Freedonia Group, "higher prices in comparison
to traditional petroleum-based products, as well as competition
from lubricants formed from hydrocracking processing, will
limit their gains; however, the introduction of synthetic
blends will help offset the price disadvantage of synthetics
as blends offer higher performance than conventional lubricants
at a lower cost than full synthetics."
Retail shelf prices have remained
constant despite changes in formulation. Mass merchandise
shelf prices for synthetic PCMOs average between $3 and $4
per quart. In the first quarter, the price for a quart of
Mobil 1 synthetic was approximately $4.09. The cost of Valvoline
SynPower was slightly higher, at $4.22.
"At an average price point
of $3.89 per quart for full-synthetic oil, these products
attract a small segment of users," says Larry Solomon
of Valvoline. "Past trends indicate that the full-synthetic
market is a small segment. There is no reason to believe that
this will change in the future."
Lok points out the synthetic
lubricant market is relatively price insensitive. "The
customers in this market are more willing to pay for the value
of the product, despite the cost," he says. "In
contrast, the PCMO suppliers are continually looking for cost
efficiencies in their production, as long as it comes with
no sacrifice to product performance."
Seek Extreme Operating Conditions
Trends in demand in the industrial
sector for synthetics differ from those in the automotive
oil market because of increasing requests for higher performance
and specialty products. According to The Freedonia Group,
the bulk of the synthetic market is composed of industrial
lubricants and demand for synthetic industrial lubricants
is forecast to increase 4.8% annually, to 72 million gallons
This growth has Equilon (Houston)
focusing its synthetic marketing on the industrial market.
Earl Blanchette told LW 2 months ago the company saw a bigger
growth in the industrial market for synthetics. The company,
as reported, introduced several new products within the past
year, including a new compressor oil.
Because of the drive for energy
efficiency, extended drains, and environmental factors in
this sector, marketers of industrial synthetics will have
to pay closer attention to the performance factors in formulation,
perhaps with more emphasis than in the automotive segment.
Industrial synthetic oils currently
us a variety of base oils, such as PAOs, diesters, polyalkylene
glycols (PAGs), and phosphate esters, among others. In hydraulic
applications, circulating oils, and turbine oils. some industrial
oil producers are looking at VHVI as a replacement for PAO.
Lok says, however, that increased
activity in this market also shows that the switch from PAOs
and VHVIs is happening. "Over the last year, sales of
Group III basestocks at Chevron Products have increased, particularly
into a wide variety of industrial oil applications."
Much, if any, move from PAOs
to VHVIs in industrial synthetics may depend on the oxidation
stability factor. "If the high-VI stocks can obtain the
oxidation stability of a PAO with a comparable performance,
I think the industrial segment would really consider that
type of base oil as a replacement for conventional synthetics,
especially when you add the lower cost factor," says
Shelby. "However, I just don't see [VHVIs] making as
big a splash in the industrial segment as synthetics. They
will evolve into the market but will not be marketed in the
same way as synthetics are in the automotive sector"
He suggests consumers in colder climates will be more willing
to accept the VHVI formulation if they have viscometrics similar
to those of true synthetics.
But industrial synthetics in
general have not had the type of success that automotive synthetics
have had, according to Shelby. "The synthetics would
only be a factor for those applications where longer life,
high temperature, and reduced downtime are big factors,"
he says. "They don't have as much of a foothold in the
industrial market as in automotive."
Mobil, which formulates with
PAOs, diesters, and PAGs, does have the larger foothold in
the market, with its full line of gear oils, circulating oils,
and hydraulic oils. Houghton International (Valley Forge,
PA) also produces a glycol-based synthetic hydraulic fluid
(Houghsaf) that competes with the Mobil poduct.
Fire safety is a big issue in
the hydraulic market, emphasizing higher flash point and fire
Another area of focus is the
environment, which Equilon is emphasizing in its marketing
of vegetable-based synthetics. Likewise, reported Chemical
Engineering in July, American Synthol (Roswell, GA) is
marketing its New Technology Synthetic Base (NTSB) stock by
boasting that it is more biodegradable and thermally stable
than PAO. According to Joe Green, president of American Synthol.
NTSB can be formulated to be comparable to PAO by using improved
The synthetic market in general
has seen an active year of new blends, new product releases,
and formulation changes. It remains a market stricken by discrepancies
in market share, cost, and growth, but the word "synthetic"
retains the image of higher performance and product development.
Just as divided as the debate, market analysts are torn by
projections for growth and whether a big push for growth is
worthwhile given the size of the segment. There is little
doubt that a trend is appearing in the synthetic market, but
where that trend will go remains to be seen.
More AMSOIL Performance Tests |
Why Motor Oil Deteriorates
It is common knowledge
that, at some point, engine oil must be changed. It's something
that is preached relentlessly to vehicle owners by vehicle
manufacturers, quick lubes and oil companies. But consumers
are widely unaware of what exactly makes oil changes necessary.
Many factors contribute
to a motor oil's demise, but it is essentially the accumulation
of contaminants in the oil and chemical changes in the oil
itself that make a motor unfit for further service. With time,
it is inevitable that the oil will be contaminated by dirt
or sludge, or succumb to the extreme pressures or temperatures
found inside an engine. AMSOIL Motor Oils are formulated with
the industry's most advanced synthetic base stocks and additive
packages to combat the forces that deteriorate conventional
What is the NOACK Volatility
Volatization is a term used to describe
what happens to a fluid as it is heated to the point it begins
to "boil off." Upon reaching a certain temperature,
oil will begin to lose some of its lighter weight molecules
as they "boil off" and leave heavier weight molecules
behind. Not only does this cause higher oil consumption, this
process can also cause increased viscosity making the oil
more difficult to circulate through the lubrication system.
Quality Takes Priority at AMSOIL
The AMSOIL chemical
laboratory plays an important role in the daily operations
at AMSOIL headquarters. The lab fulfills tech service requests,
performs competitor testing and comparisons, and works on
the research and development of products at AMSOIL. One of
the most important jobs at the lab is quality control. AMSOIL
is known for formulating high-quality products and the AMSOIL
chemists ensure that everything coming in and going out meets
AMSOIL standards. How do they do it? (read
Synthetic Motor Oils offer the longest drain intervals
on the market, unsurpassed protection and performance that
effectively extends equipment life and improved fuel economy,
saving customers money at the pump and reducing the nation's
dependence on foreign oil.
INC. warrants that the use of its lubricants will not cause
mechanical damage to any mechanically sound equipment when
AMSOIL INC. products are used in full compliance with the
company's recommendations and instructions."
synthetic motor oils are formulated to surpass engine test
specifications, offering protection far greater than competing
motor oils for extended drain intervals. Most synthetic oil
manufacturers make no claim to extended drain intervals, deferring
to the maintenance schedule provided by the vehicle manufacturer.
With its unparalleled oil and warranty program, AMSOIL offers
consumers unprecedented protection and economics.
More than 20 years
ago, AMSOIL began using the NOACK volatility test as a comparison
tool and measurement of quality. Back then, nearly every oil
tested side-by-side with AMSOIL synthetic motor oils failed,
and those that passed barely squeaked by. Other oil companies
paid no attention to NOACK results until Ford Motor Company
made it a requirement for service fill oils, validating what
AMSOIL had said all along.
NOACK Volatility Test
Volatility Test determines the evaporation loss
of lubricants in high temperature service. The more
motor oils vaporize, the thicker and heavier they become,
contributing to poor circulation, reduced fuel economy
and increased oil consumption, wear and emissions. AMSOIL
Synthetic Motor Oil resists high temperature volatization
better than other motor oils. AMSOIL Synthetic Motor
Oil maintains peak fuel efficiency and reduces oil consumption
AMSOIL Now An ISO Certified
received ISO 9001:2000 certification of our Quality Management
System (QMS). NSF International Strategic Registrations is
the registrar that has verified our QMS meets the requirements
of the ISO 9001:2000 standard, the most widely utilized quality
standard throughout the world for quality management systems.
ISO standards are used by over 300,000 companies worldwide
setting rigorous standards for businesses, government and
is applicable to any manufacturing and service organization
providing a framework for system development that focuses
on the customer, quality system performance and ongoing improvement.
AMSOIL received ISO 9001:2000 registration under the scope:
synthetic lubricants blending, packaging, and other fulfillment
directly associated with lubricant product.
certification puts AMSOIL in line with some of the most efficient
companies in the world. It is further assurance that the products
and services AMSOIL provides will continue to maintain the
high level of quality the company always demanded.
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