order a free catalog | Click
To buy AMSOIL
products, visit the AMSOIL
Buy AMSOIL at wholesale prices |
AMSOIL By Phone from AMSOIL Headquarters
7am-5pm Central Time, Toll-Free at: 1-800-777-7094
Give Operator Sponsor
Which AMSOIL Products Are Recommended
For Your Vehicles?
A Defining Moment For Synthetics
published October 1999 Lubricants World
the field is not wide open, a new ruling confirms that the
definition of "synthetic" is still largely in the
hands of marketers.
Part 1 of 2
Synthetic. The word has become
almost a proscription in the industry, especially among scientific
and technical organizations, such as the Society of Automotive
Engineers (SAE) and the American Petroleum Institute (API).
Ask a marketer of motor oil
products formulated with hydroprocessed mineral oils, and
you might get a definition that involves cost-efficiencies
and consumer choices. Ask an engineer involved in manufacturing
polyalphaolefins (PAOs) or esters, and composition might be
the determining factor. Despite the intense debate over the
origins of synthetics, an absolute definition has remained
in limbo for many years, with much of the responsibility placed
on base oil manufacturers and lubricant marketers.
It was only recently, in a decision
by the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council
of Better Business Bureaus, that the first basic action and
ruling in the United States set a strong precedence for a
broader description in the marketing of synthetics. In this
first installment of a two-part story, Lubricants World takes
a look at the NAD's ruling and explores the revived debate
surrounding the definition of "synthetic."
In a ruling released April 1999, the NAD addressed complaints
filed by Mobil Oil Corp. regarding the truthfulness of Castrol
North America Inc.'s claim that its Syntec® provides "superior
engine protection" to all other motor oils, both synthetic
and conventional, and that Syntec's esters provide "unique
molecular bonding." Mobil charged that the advertisements
inaccurately represented that the current formulation of Syntec
is synthetic. The challenge was filed based on statements
Castrol made in a series of television commercials, Web site
publications, package labels, and brochures.
The NAD divided its decision
to address three issues raised in the complaint. Is the reformulated
Syntec synthetic motor oil? Has Castrol substantiated its
superiority claims? Has Syntec been degraded?
The NAD determined that the evidence presented by the advertiser
constitutes a reasonable basis for the claim that Castrol
Syntec, as currently formulated, is a synthetic motor oil.
NAD noted that Mobil markets hydroisomerized basestocks as
synthetic in Europe and elsewhere. NAD noted that the action
taken by the SAE to delete any reference to "synthetic"
in its description of basestocks in section J354 and API's
consequent removal of any mention of "synthetic"
in API1509 were decisions by the industry not to restrict
use of the term "synthetic" to the definition now
proffered by Mobil. Further, the SAE Automotive Lubricants
Reference Book, an extensively peer-reviewed publication,
states base oils made through the processes used to create
Shell's hydroisomerized basestock, severe cracking, and reforming
processes may be marketed as "synthetic."
Despite its prior ruling, the NAD advised that Syntec could
not advertise a superior protection claim.
The NAD determined that though Mobil presented clear evidence
that Castrol has made a major change to Syntec's formulation,
it was not sufficient to demonstrate that Syntec has been
In a statement to Lubricants World, Castrol's legal counsel
said, "The NAD's decision was clearly correct. In accepting
Castrol's position on the appropriate definition of synthetic
basestock and concluding that Castrol Syntec is a fully synthetic
oil, the NAD accepted the overwhelming evidence Castrol presented,
which included the opinions of leading scientists . . .and
statements from Shell, Exxon, and other industry sources.
The NAD also relied on the SAE's rejection of a restrictive
definition of the type advanced by Mobil. In fact, although
it had the right to do so, Mobil did not attempt to appeal
the NADS's decision."
Mark Sztenderowicz, a senior
research engineer from Chevron Products Co.'s Base Oil Technology
Team, stated his company agreed with the NAD's decision. "We
feel strongly," he said, "that 'synthetic' is a
fairly broad term and a number of basestocks besides PAOs
fit the description. To the extent that the NAD came to a
similar conclusion and was unwilling to limit 'synthetic'
to a narrow definition, we agree. We further agree with what
we consider to be a commonsense interpretation that consumers
perceive the word 'synthetic' to mean something man-made,
but not made necessarily from a particular compound or component."
Mobil contended that Castrol misleads consumers that Syntec
is a fully synthetic motor oil despite the fact that Syntec
is no longer synthetic. The challenger alleged that after
years of manufacturing Syntec with PAO, Castrol replaced the
PAO, which had constituted nearly 70% of the volume of the
product, with hydroprocessed mineral oil in approximately
December 1997. As a result of an independent laboratory test
conducted by Savant Inc., Mobil maintained that samples of
Syntec purchased in June and December 1997 contained 93% and
80% PAO. Other samples of Syntec, one purchased in December
1997 and four purchased in 1998, contained no PAO, and instead
contained 100% mineral oil.
Furthermore, Mobil alleged that
Castrol degraded Syntec by substituting hydroprocessed mineral
oil for PAO to the detriment of the consumer. Even though
Syntec was able to meet the minimum industry standards, Mobil
contended that in no way does it prove the current Syntec
is as good as it was when it was made with PAO.
Castrol defended its claim that Castrol Syntec is synthetic
based on the nature of the basestocks used in the formulation
(Shell's hydroisomerized basestocks). This is substantiated
by the opinions of chemistry experts; authorities from Shell
and Exxon; the SAE's Automotive Lubricants Reference Book;
a paper by Dr. Martin Voltz, a Mobil scientist; and an independent
motor oil expert. Castrol also contends that its data show
the current formulation of Syntec provides more protection
than the old formulation and is, in fact, superior to Mobil
1®, Mobil's synthetic oil.
In response to Mobil's contention
that Castrol deceived its consumers by not informing them
of the change in the formulation, the advertiser submitted
a statement by Richard Kabel, a motor oil expert. Kabel asserted
that motor oil manufacturers, including Mobil, regularly make
changes in their formulations without disclosing these changes
to consumers. He stated that the industry certification and
licensing program is designed to provide motor oil manufacturers
with the flexibility to modify their formulations as long
as the oil continues to meet industry standards.
The Definition of "Synthetic"
The debate regarding the use
of the word "synthetic" created a tumult in the
early 1990s when a push by the lubricants industry urged the
API and the SAE to set a standard or official definition for
the material. The argument centered on the development of
very high viscosity index (VHVI) base oils that some argued
provided properties similar to PAOs but cost only half as
much. VHVIs or hydroisomerized basestocks are created by chemically
converting the molecules of a selected feedstock to a different
set of molecules, predominantly through chemical rearrangement
or decomposition of the structure of the feed molecules. PAOs
are derived from a chemical process that combines small molecules
to make larger complex molecules of a desired type.
SAE, unable to resolve the debate,
stripped references to the word "synthetics" from
its terminology books and guides (J357) in 1995 and 1996,
respectively. The API eliminated references to "synthetic"
from its Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System (API1509).
In the complaint filed by Mobil against Castrol's Syntec,
the PAO manufacturer contended true synthetics had to be formulated
from small molecules subject to a chemical reaction, not built
from natural petroleum.
Mobil submitted testimony from
Professor J.M. Perez, a lubrication and technology expert
from Pennsylvania State University, who told the NAD that
true synthetics require "the formation of chemical products
from simple well-defined molecules by synthesis or chemical
reaction." Perez cited isomerization, reforming, hydrotreating,
and hydrocracking as some of the many chemical and physical
processing steps applied to petroleum to produce a variety
of useful products, but said that they do not produce synthetic
products. He argued that hydroisomerization does not create
synthetic material because it does not create or build molecules,
but merely rearranges the same molecules that were present
in the original petroleum fraction.
Professor O.L. Chapman, an expert
in synthetic chemistry from the University of California,
also testified that synthetic materials are constructed from
pure compounds that are themselves not natural and that the
resulting synthetic material has well-defined properties.
PAO and ester, he said, are built from pure small molecules
that have already been subject to a chemical reaction, and
are not built from natural petroleum.
Mobil also asserted that the
definition of synthetic propounded by Castrol is contrary
to the definition used by other motor oil manufacturers and
the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Under the EPA's
40CFR435.11(x), "the term 'synthetic' material. . . means
material produced by the reaction of a specific purified chemical
feedstock, as opposed to the traditional base fluids such
as diesel and mineral oil, which are derived from crude oil
solely through physical separation processes."
The challenger also noted that
Exxon, on its Web site, stated that a synthetic lubricant
is a "lubricating fluid made by chemically reacting materials
of a specific chemical composition to produce a compound with
planned and predictable properties. . . ." Similarly,
Mobil contended Chevron, Lubrizol, Mobil, Valvoline, and Quaker
State all disseminated definitions of synthetic that did not
include hydroisomerized oil.
The challenger argued that Castrol
does not even meet the definition of synthetic oil that it
disseminates on its own Web site. Castrol's definition reads,
"synthetic lubricants are manufactured chemicals . .
. created in the laboratory by combining molecules" and
"a lubricant produced by synthesis rather than by extraction
and refinement." Mobil asserted that, in fact, Syntec
meets Castrol's own Web-posted definition of mineral oil:
"oil that is manufactured from crude oil by a series
of refinery processes."
Despite the fact that the label
does not contain the claim that Syntec is a fully synthetic
motor oil, Mobil contended that Castrol's television commercials,
brochures, labels, Web sites have created an automatic association
for consumers that any Syntec product is a synthetic oil.
In response to Castrol's assertions that SAE changed its definition
of synthetics to include mineral oils, Mobil asserted that
SAE's legal administrator, Steven P. Daum, has stated, "SAE
has neither issued an official definition of, nor adopted
a Society position on, what does or does not constitute such
materials. SAE does not render opinions on what products may
be marketed or advertised as synthetic motor oil."
Furthermore, Mobil contested
Castrol's claim that Section J357 of SAE's "Physical
and Chemical Properties of Engine Oils," described the
basestocks used in manufacturing motor oils, recognizes Shell's
hydroisomerized basestocks as synthetic. The challenger claimed
the section is a general guide to engine oil properties and
that the current version does not define or even use the word
"synthetic." Mobil also argued that Castrol's assertion
that SAE's Automotive Lubricants Reference Book supports hydroisomerized
oil as synthetic is misleading. Mobil contended the book expresses
the views of the authors and not that of SAE.
Castrol distinguished "synthetic" from "conventional"
oil in its definition. Conventional oils, according to Castrol,
are taken from the ground, purified, and refined without reforming
through chemical reactions. Castrol described synthetic oils
as made with stocks in which the molecular structure of a
substance, such as wax, has been broken apart and transformed
through a chemical reaction to create a new molecule that
is different from naturally occurring substances.
Castrol called Nobel Laureate
Roald Hoffman and Frank H.T. Rhodes, professor of chemistry
at Cornell University, who defined synthetic material as "the
product of an intended chemical reaction." Hoffman also
defined at least one major chemical transformation (reaction)
in its manufacture of processing, but a simple "physical
separation, purification, or transformation (e.g., freezing
or boiling) does not constitute a synthesis."
Sir John Meurig Thomas of the
Royal Institute of Great Britain reached a similar conclusion,
stating that although there is no net increase in the size
of the molecule in hydroisomerization, this does not prevent
the process from creating a synthetic substance. Furthermore,
he noted the act of isomerizing a linear paraffin into a branched-chain
paraffin makes the process of producing Shell's hydroisomerized
basestock as much of a synthesis as the buildup of larger
hydrocarbons from smaller ones.
J.G Helpinstill, who works for
Exxon in basestock and finished-product research and development,
stated that it is appropriate to classify as synthetic materials
that are not found in the earth's naturally occurring resources
in commercial quantities, but instead are made by substantive
chemical modifications of other naturally occurring or physically
In 1993, Castrol asserted SAE
was asked to exclude hydroisomerized products from the definition
of synthetic basestocks by defining synthesis as involving
the buildup of larger molecules from smaller components. The
SAE, according to Castrol, decided in 1995, as did the API,
to revise its guidelines to eliminate any definition of synthetic.
The advertiser contended Mobil's challenge before the NAD
is really an effort to reopen a debate previously lost in
these industry organizations. Furthermore, Castrol contended
the SAE's Automotive Lubricants Reference Book states that
base oils made through severe cracking and reforming processes
may be marketed as synthetic.
Castrol also maintained that
basestocks like shell's hydroisomerized basestock are marketed
as synthetic in 37 countries, including the United States,
and that Mobil's real interest is in protecting its market
dominance. The advertiser argued that Mobil, through its alliance
with British Petroleum, has also marketed hydroisomerized
basestocks as synthetic in Europe and elsewhere.
In a private interview with
Lubricants World, Castrol's legal counsel from Paul Weiss
said, "As the NAD recognized, the scientific and industry
consensus view is that synthetic basestocks are manufactured
through an intended chemical reaction in which the molecular
structure of a substance has been transformed. Synthetic basestocks
are used to produce engine oils that meet high performance
specifications." Furthermore, he contended the NAD's
decision confirmed that the use of judiciously chosen synthetic
basestocks is essential to the formulation of a fully synthetic
engine oil that meets the exacting performance standards consumers
have come to expect from synthetic engine oils.
He said, "The NAD recognized,
therefore, that both composition and performance are important
characteristics of synthetic lubricants. Castrol requires
that its Syntec full-synthetic engine oils meet those exacting
performance specifications and surpass the performance of
In Lubricant World's discussions with several lubricant companies,
the case raised a diversity of opinions.
An industry expert from a major
oil company prefers a description of synthetic used by the
Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE),
which defines synthetics as man-made compounds, not naturally
occurring, and that combining low-molecular-weight materials
via chemical reaction into higher-molecular-weight structures
makes these products. The spokesperson said, "In our
opinion, that responsibility [of placing the accountability
of defining synthetics in the hands of manufacturers or lubricant
marketers] will yield an inconsistent application of the basestock,
and inconsistencies in finished-product quality will result."
He also argued that based on
PAO synthetic products, the emphasis should be based on performance
rather than composition. "This is not to imply,"
he suggested, "that the only way to achieve enhanced
performance is through the use of PAO. In Europe, for example,
oil is formulated on various quality tiers, where the consumer
is informed about what each tier will accomplish in his automobile
(extended drains, high-RPM engines, etc.). The North American
lubricant market has a long way to go to develop this type
Sztenderowicz, however, applies
the definition in Webster's Dictionary in the chemical context.
The dictionary defines synthetic to mean, "of, relating
to, or produced by chemical or biochemical synthesis, especially
produced artificially," with synthesis defined as "the
production of substance by the union on chemical elements,
groups, or simpler compounds or by the degradation of a complex
Chevron Products Co. manufactures
a VHVI line of unconventional base oils (UCBOs) at its Richmond
base oil plant. Based on these definitions, Sztenderowicz
said, "Both Chevron PAOs and UCBOs fit this description."
He noted the definition clearly links synthetics to composition
or origin, but not to a specific composition, origin, or manufacturing
route. "We think that a basestock in which the molecules
largely are altered in some way from those appearing in the
raw materials might be classified as synthetic," Sztenderowicz
explained. "Performance is an issue separate from whether
or not the base fluid is considered synthetic. The association
is based entirely upon marketing claims. In the real world,
the performance of a lubricant is a function of both the base
fluid and the additives which make up the product. Although
most synthetic basestocks offer certain advantages relative
to conventional stocks, superior performance is not guaranteed
by their use."
Henkel Lubricant Technologies
refers to the traditional definition described by ASTM D 4175
from the American Society for Testing and Materials. In this
case, synthetic is defined as originating from the chemical
synthesis of relatively pure organic compounds from one or
more of a wide variety of raw materials. Henkel produces ester
basestocks used in the manufacture of synthetic or synthesized
lubricants, including polyolesters, diesters, and dimer acid
esters. A spokesperson for the company said, "we feel
the definition of synthetics should include a combination
of performance and composition."
Motiva Enterprises LLC defines
synthetics as "man-made, not naturally occurring."
Motiva manufactures Group III base oils known as TEXHVI 3
and 4. A representative of the company said "The definition
of synthetics should be based on how it is derived."
None of the independent manufacturers
contacted by Lubricants World said they had heard of the case
or judgment. Denny Madden of Amalie Oil Co., which buys and
manufacturers finished goods using both PAOs and VHVI basestocks,
said "Personally, I have always ad a strange feeling
about calling one slice of crude oil synthetic when the very
nature of refining is a synthesizing process. I understand
that there needs to be a way of differentiating between basestock
types and that more mechanical, physical, and chemical activity
takes place when one makes PAOs and other so-called synthetic
stocks, but all crude is synthesized to make any number of
very different products, lubricating or otherwise. So, how
do I feel about the subject? Confused!"
Castrol North America Inc. has
agreed to modify its superior engine protect and "unique
molecular bonding" claims in advertising for its Syntec
motor oils, but continues to advertise the product as a synthetic.
Castrol says it is in the process of further upgrading and
reformulating Syntec. Castrol's legal counsel added separately
to Lubricants World, "The NAD's decision does not make
any changes. Instead, it confirms a preexisting consensus
reached by industry groups, experts, and scientists."
A Mobil spokesperson told Lubricants
World that "Mobil is disappointed with the NAD's decision
that, in its judgment, Castrol Syntec can be advertised and
marketed as synthetic motor oil. Mobil filed the challenge
in order to protect consumers and the integrity of fully synthetic
motor oils. Mobil 1, the top-selling fully synthetic motor
oil in the world, provides several important benefits not
offered by conventional blended or hydroprocessed motor oils
-- benefits that can significantly improve engine performance,
even under extreme conditions." Mobil currently does
not have any plans to appeal the ruling.
Industry experts had mixed reactions
to the impact of the decision on developing an industry-accepted
definition for synthetics. A Henkel spokesperson said, "If
the technical societies adopt the broader definition of synthetics,
it will force more performance-driven specifications in the
market and the term 'synthetic' will become meaningless."
One industry expert described, "The market will move
in a direction that it has historically and support synthetics
as they presently are defined. PAOs will continue to thrive
and support the demands of niche markets that require the
highest quality basestock available.
Joe Geagea, Chevron base oils
products team manager, suggested, "Currently, there is
no strict definition in North America of what constitutes
synthetic, and we don't expect this to change. What we really
think will come out of this decision is an awareness that
several types of stocks, particularly some newer UCNOs, justifiably
can be considered synthetic and are viable basestocks for
the formulation of top-quality synthetic lubricants. In other
words, the decision sends a message that 'synthetic' is not
synonymous with 'PAO'".
Part 2 of 2
By Katherine Bui
published November 1999 Lubricants World
As reported in Part 1 of this
story (October 1999 Lubricants World), the National Advertising
Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus ruled
in April 1999 that Castrol Syntec motor oil can be marketed
as a synthetic. The decision followed a complaint filed by
Mobil that as of December 1997, Castrol no longer used polyalphaolefins
(PAOs) but hydroprocessed base oils to formulate the product.
The decision is final, but the impact it might have on the
lubricants industry could open the floodgates on how synthetics
The PAO commercial market can
be traced as far back as the early 1970s, when specialized
products were formulated from PAOs. However, it was not until
Mobil Oil commercially marketed its Mobil 1 products 25 years
ago that PAOs became a major consumer-sought lubricant product.
Since that time, the PAO market
has traveled a long and winding road, enjoying slow but steady
growth while fending off criticisms of high cost compared
to conventional oils. In the last 10 years, the PAO market
took off significantly, first in Europe and then in North
America, expecting as much as double-digit growth. In part,
the growth might be attributed to the stricter specifications
in Europe that created a market niche for synthetic and semi-synthetic
products. The demand has since extended to North America and
It was the invention of the
hydrockracking process in the late 1950s, followed by Chevron's
development of hydrodewaxing or hydroisomerizing in the late
1980s, that created the process for the development of the
The 1990s brought a change to
the hydrodewaxing technology, making large volumes of high-quality
basestocks available at lower cost. Much of this capacity
is used to produce Group II base oils. The introduction of
Group III basestocks made solely through hydroprocessing in
1996 by Chevron, Petro-Canada, and a few other base oil companies
created a second generation of very high viscosity index (VHVI)
oils in terms of both quality and potential capacity - that
is, high-performance basestocks had gone mainstream. These
base oils, which cost more than the Group IIs yet less than
PAOs, do not usa a solvent-refining process and some say they
may have a much higher performance level than conventional
oils, almost approaching that of PAOs.
Increased severity of lubricant
specifications has been the driving force in both the need
and availability of PAOs and VHVIs, but it is still too early
to tell in which niche these types of basestocks fall in the
marketplace. Nevertheless, the NAD ruling has raised several
issues regarding the marketing and application of the word
"synthetic" that arguably would resolve some of
these discrepancies. In this second of out two-part series,
Lubricants World posed the question of the market impact of
the NAD decision to a sample of representatives from a variety
of segments in the lubricants industry.
Impact on Individual
When asked how the NAD decision might impact individual companies,
the answers were as diverse as the products each company markets.
Castrol, whose formulation of Syntec utilizing hydroisomerized
base oils instead of PAOs initiated Mobil's complaint, stated
it is "gratified" by the outcome of the decision.
"Castrol is proud to be
a major worldwide provider of synthetic formulated lubricants,
and looks forward to continued participation in this exiting
market,” said a company spokesperson. “Castrol
is committed to upgrading its products and producing the highest
quality synthetic engine oils. We will continue to explore
ways to ensure that Syntec remains a leading performer in
the synthetic category."
Mark Pernik from Chevron Chemical
said, "To this point, most lubricant manufacturers are
taking a conservative approach to the decision and continue
to use a PAO in their synthetic formulations. In fact, Mobil
has already raised the quality bar by developing a new Mobil
1 Tri-Synthetic PAO formulation. For the past 5 years, Chevron
Chemical has produced a new generation of PAOs that enhance
performance for longer drain intervals. These products improve
on important properties such as VI, oxidative stability, and
volatility from traditionally available PAOs.
Joe C. Costa, manager of specialty/niche
lubricants at Conoco Lubricants, said, "This decision
will have a minimal impact on our company as we are poised
to provide the optimum lubricants to meet our customers' needs,
regardless of the marketing definition of 'synthetic base
oil.' Conoco has made a major decision to commit to heavily
hydroprocessed/hydroisomerized basestocks. And yet, we also
supply lubricants based on 'chemically synthesized' base oils,
such as PAOs...We continue to provide a complete offering
to our customers so that they always have the highest value
product to meet their needs."
Chevron, which produces both
unconventional base oils (UCBOs) and PAOs, believes the impact
on its market will depend on customers' needs and preferences.
Joe Geagea, manager of the Chevron Base Oils Products Team,
argued, "overall, we expect significant growth in the
UBCO segment at some short-term expense of the PAO segment,
followed by growth of both segments in the long term."
Brent Lok, Chevron Base Oils Product Development manager,
added, "In addition to the expected growth in UCBO sales,
our finished-oils colleagues are looking at options for the
use of UCBOs in Chevron's synthetic product lines."
Henkel, which produces ester
basestocks used in the manufacturing of synthetic or synthesized
lubricants, could see little impact on the company based on
the NAD's ruling. A Henkel spokesperson said, "Henkel's
products are performance driven and customer focused."
Ed Newman of AMSOIL
added, "AMSOIL has been the recognized leader in the
development of synthetic motor oils, and we always strive
to maintain the highest performance criteria for our products.
For this reason, we do not foresee any negative impact because
[our] customers tend to focus more on performance criteria
rather than name tags."
Valvoline's official position
regarding the decision was stated as follows: "Valvoline
will not comment on rulings or decisions which impact our
competitors. Our own product formulations are confidential
for competitive reasons."
Like many of the independent
manufacturers Lubricants World surveyed, Amalie Oil Co., an
independent blender and packager for motor oil companies that
purchases and manufacturers finished goods using both PAOs
and VHVIs, said it had not heard enough about the case to
make a judgment. However, Denny Madden of Amalie described
the decision as shocking and confusing for the market.
George Crow, president of Cross
Oil Refining and Marketing Co., responded to the NAD decisions
as follows: "Let's start off with one very important
premise, that motor oil is, after all, mainly a marketing-driven
event. We are not talking [about] whether these oils meet
the requirements for which they were blended; rather, we are
talking about the attack on Mobil's long-held dominance in
the synthetic market. And they built this position around
PAOs. If another product actually can give equal performance
to PAOs, then Mobil is at a cost disadvantage. It will definitely
affect Mobil, being a producer of PAOs...It will enhance the
standing of the VHVI producers, which are becoming more numerous.
In this case Petro-Canada, Chevron, Shell Europe, Exxon, Texaco,
and soon Sun will be able to compete, economically, with Mobil.
In the past, this was not the case."
Crow continued, "Now, after
saying all of this, and if Mobil is able to keep their brand
image and advertising strong, they will be able to continue
to maintain their number one position in synthetics. They
may have to reduce their price on PAOs, or have to revert
to using all or some VHVI material to economically compete.
Or just not make as much money as their competitors will on
the sale of a quart of synthetic product. I think this will
make PAOs become more competitive with VHVIs and enhance the
demand for VHVIs in the future. I think it is a good move
for the industry, a good move for Castrol, and an unfortunate
event for Mobil. For Cross Oil, it will not have an immediate
impact at all. But down the road a bit, if we want to get
into the finished-oil package business, it will allow Cross
to make more money on the sale of synthetic or semi-synthetic
products, assuming PAOs stay at a higher price than VHVIs."
Impact on the Synthetic
Base Oil Market
In the past 7 or 8 years, synthetics, in general, have seen
increased activity. One brand that exemplifies this trend
has been Castrol's Syntec, whose market share in the last
5 years has climbed from virtually nothing to 20%. Nearly
every major oil company currently has a synthetic product
line. Based on this trend, the NAD decision has set a tone
that may significantly impact the "synthetic" base
oil market, specifically the supply and demand of PAOs and
A Castrol spokesperson assessed,
"As the NAD's decision reflects, synthetic engine oils
formulated with high-quality hydroisomerized basestocks -
like the basestock used in Castrol Syntec - clearly match
the performance specifications of synthetic engine oils formulated
with PAO basestocks. For that reason, such stocks have been,
and will continue to be, competitive with PAO basestocks.
Castrol believes that consumers will continue to benefit from
An expert familiar with PAOs
disagrees. He said, "The market is reading too much into
the decision and trying to cast a broader net for other mineral
oil basestocks. It is very important to note that Castrol's
claim was made for a very specific product from a very specific
feedstock. Castrol argued that Shell's XHVI from a slack wax
stream is synthetic. The spokesperson indicated this is the
part of the decision that has the largest potential impact.
The quality of Group III products in inconsistent, and their
physical properties are different from one manufacturer to
the next. If these products were to be classified as synthetic,
and suppliers use some of the poorer quality Group IIIs in
the synthetic market, consumers will be misled and the high-margin
niche that has been developed by present-day synthetics will
Costa of Conoco Lubricants suggested,
"Presently, the supply and demand for PAOs as lubricant
basestocks are generally in balance. Thus, a decision or ruling
allowing the use of another (particularly less expensive)
oil into the segment of the market now occupied by PAOs will
obviously create a temporary softness in the PAO market."
Lok of Chevron contended the
jury is still out on the impact of the NAD's decision. "Many
of our customers are still studying this ruling and deciding
what course of action to take. In the immediate future, high-performance
Group III base oils will probably gain some volume at the
expense of PAOs. But the enhanced competition can very likely
expand the total size of the synthetic market, allowing for
continued growth of both PAO and Group III UCBOs." Lok
said he believes the PAO market will always be a niche market
because of the limited availability of PAO feedstocks.
"The availability of new
fully hydroprocessed Group III base oils, whose capacities
are measured in thousands of barrels per day, will allow manufacturers
to specify high performance in mainstream applications,"
said Lok. He further suggested, "We think that this development
can further increase the already healthy growth rate of the
synthetic market, to the point that both PAO and Group III
UCBOs can co-exist in the market place."
A Henkel spokesperson said,
"We believe that the market would begin to differentiate
products by performance rather than by a definition that may
have been compromised."
Newman of AMSOIL
suggested, "We're concerned about the message to consumers.
The NAD decision will result in increased confusion in the
marketplace among consumers. Even the experts aren't entirely
in agreement on this matter. If a Group III basestock is acceptable
as 'synthetic,' it helps all Group III products and weakens
the meaning of the word 'synthetic.' Not all Group III lubricants
are created equal." He added, "True synthetics will
continue to offer significant performance advantages, including
high- and low-temperature performance under extreme conditions,
oxidative stability, and lower volatility, to name a few."
The synthetic market faces many
challenges other than those directly related to the NAD ruling.
Consolidations, mergers, and acquisitions are changing the
key players in the industry. Driven by demand and increasing
specification hurdles, both base oil manufacturers and aftermarket
formulators may have to address the performance, composition
and supply of synthetics. Economics will also play an important
role in driving the market.
However, these factors are all
uncertain. What is certain is that "synthetics,"
a component of higher performance, will remain a strong presence
in the marketplace. At its current precarious state, any ruling
-- whether it is through the court system or the NAD - may
tip the scales in determining the outgrowth and market of
synthetics, whether they are PAOs or hydroisomerized basestocks.
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.
AMSOIL Product Information
Form to Get Exclusive Technical Articles and Information
on AMSOIL Products.
weekly newsletter by email - please complete this form.
Personal contact information
will only be used to provide requested information or
assistance. You will not be enrolled in advertising
or marketing programs and your information will not
You will only receive
the email newsletter.
AMSOIL Products Are Recommended For Your Car or Truck?
Here And Enter Your Vehicle Information To Find Out
I welcome the opportunity to
work with you personally as your servicing AMSOIL Dealer.
Use the information on this website to contact me. You may
also check out the AMSOIL
Corporate Website for product and business opportunity
If you would like more information
about AMSOIL INC., click one of the links below: