If your business relies primarily on equipment and machinery, then there’s no doubt you’ve been faced with the debate of mineral versus synthetic lubricants. In some situations, the decision is part of an overall demand planning exercise; in others, it’s simply to assure your facility is receiving the best life cycle value. If you want to know which oil is ultimately better, you’ll need to consider the needs of your business.
Naturally-occurring crude oil is a cocktail of hydrocarbons. Even after aggressive solvent-based refining, thousands of hydrocarbon compounds, as well as organic compounds of oxygen, sulfur and nitrogen, remain. These three compounds in particular can be problematic, as they enable oxidation and acid development, as well as the formation of sludge.
Synthetic lubricants are engineered products created by chemical reactions via the precise application of pressure and temperature to a specific recipe of components. All of these components are high in purity with strong molecular bonds. The end product is a pure compound which is less vulnerable to oxidation, highly resistant to breakdown, and uniform in molecular size. This uniformity keeps synthetics from jellifying in cold temperatures, while its specific molecular structure keeps it from thinning in hot temperatures.
Because synthetic lubricants can offer greater tolerance for extreme temperatures, they can allow for longer fluid life. This means fewer oil changes and less downtime. Gear wear should be considered when choosing the best lubricants for your facility; Synthetic oils are recognized to make gears more efficient than mineral oils. Another benefit is the performance of synthetic lubricants in food-grade applications in accordance with USDA-H1 food contact.
Reduced flammability is a key driver for the growing popularity of synthetic lubricants. Also, in regard to safety and insurance risks, the flash point for synthetics as a class is always higher.
The main difference to note between mineral and synthetic lubricants is how they are made; and when it comes to choosing between the two, the bottom line is that you should let the needs, demands and circumstances of your application drive your decision.