Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Official blog of the Lehigh University Chemical Engineers

Understanding Base Oil Groups

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During my Co-op at Infineum, I came across many different base oil groups when making lubricating blends. In the hope to understand the types of base oil that I used, I found this really useful article online that explains the differences in base oil groups really well. If you are going to the petroleum industry, these are some really helpful things to learn.

The lubricants that are made in the chemical plants today started as a base oil. Through the refining process, the base oil has been categorized into five categories, ranging from Group I to Group V. Group I, II, and II are refined from petroleum crude oil, while Group IV base oils are fully synthetic oils. Fully synthetic means they are oil artificially made by human. Group V is for all other base oils not included in Groups I through IV. Lubricating Oil begins as the following the five group before anything was added to it.

Group I

Group I base oils are classified as less than 90 percent saturates, greater than 0.03 percent sulfur and with a viscosity-index range of 80 to 120. The temperature range for these oils is from 32 to 150 degrees F. Group I base oils are solvent-refined, which is a simpler refining process. This is why they are the cheapest base oils on the market.

Group II

Group II base oils are defined as being more than 90 percent saturates, less than 0.03 percent sulfur and with a viscosity index of 80 to 120. They are often manufactured by hydrocracking, which is a more complex process than what is used for Group I base oils. Since all the hydrocarbon molecules of these oils are saturated, Group II base oils have better antioxidation properties. They also have a clearer color and cost more in comparison to Group I base oils. Still, Group II base oils are becoming very common on the market today and are priced very close to Group I oils.

Group III

Group III base oils are greater than 90 percent saturates, less than 0.03 percent sulfur and have a viscosity index above 120. These oils are refined even more than Group II base oils and generally are severely hydrocracked (higher pressure and heat). This longer process is designed to achieve a purer base oil. Although made from crude oil, Group III base oils are sometimes described as synthesized hydrocarbons. Like Group II base oils, these oils are also becoming more prevalent.

Group IV

Group IV base oils are polyalphaolefins (PAOs). These synthetic base oils are made through a process called synthesizing. They have a much broader temperature range and are great for use in extreme cold conditions and high heat applications.

Group V

Group V base oils are classified as all other base oils, including silicone, phosphate ester, polyalkylene glycol (PAG), polyolester, biolubes, etc. These base oils are at times mixed with other base stocks to enhance the oil’s properties. An example would be a PAO-based compressor oil that is mixed with a polyolester. Esters are common Group V base oils used in different lubricant formulations to improve the properties of the existing base oil. Ester oils can take more abuse at higher temperatures and will provide superior detergency compared to a PAO synthetic base oil, which in turn increases the hours of use.

Here’s the link to the actual article:

http://www.machinerylubrication.com/Read/29113/base-oil-groups

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Author: Jerry Jin

Hello, My name is Jerry Jin. I'm a senior at Lehigh University pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering. I'm from Allentown, PA, but I was born in Shanghai, China. I moved here when I was fourteen years old. I'm currently the secretary for Southeast Asia at Lehigh Club, and treasurer for SASE. I'm also on the Lehigh Ultimate Frisbee Team and I enjoy being spontaneous.

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