SynBlends Lead the Trend Toward Lower Viscosity Synthetic HDMO

by on July 27, 2017 2 Comments

In an earlier article, we explored the trend toward synthetic oils on the trucking industry, and the differences between synthetic and conventional oils. Synthetics are certainly gaining traction as manufacturers recommend lower viscosity oils to improve fuel economy. Instead of going to full synthetics, however, many operators are choosing synthetic blends or “synblends.”

Synblend is more of a marketing term than an actual technical designation. It simply denotes a product that uses a combination of synthetic and mineral base oils. Within that definition, producers in the U.S. have a lot of latitude regarding the proportions of synthetic to conventional base stock. Many use a “Group III” base oil stock, which is primarily a synthetic but has some similar properties to conventional oils. Regulations are stricter in countries such as Germany, where an oil must use a “Group IV” or purely synthetic base stock in order to be labeled synthetic. The types and levels of chemical additives that make up the final product are generally the same across conventional, synthetic or blend-based oils.

Synblends are most commonly used to transition to lower viscosity grades, such as 10W-30 or 5W-30, when there is a need for low temperature performance or a desire for greater fuel economy. Delo® 400 XLE SAE 10W-30 is an example of a synblend in the new API CK-4 category, which is compatible with older engines. In contrast, Delo® 400 ZFA SAE 10W-30 is a synblend formulated to API FA-4 specifications, specifically designed for engines that comply with 2017 greenhouse gas emission standards (GHG 17).

We are definitely seeing a trend towards lower viscosity oils, which is bound to drive greater adoption of synblends and, ultimately, full synthetics.


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About the Author ()

Shawn’s career spans nearly 20 years focused exclusively on research and engineering dealing with heavy-duty engine lubricants, fuels, and materials. Before joining Chevron in 2013, he spent 12 years leading global fluids and materials engineering activities for Cummins. He also spent five years conducting lubricant, fuel, and emission research for the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO. At Chevron, he is a Senior Staff Engineer primarily responsible for product formulation of the Delo Brand of Heavy Duty Engine Oils. He is currently the lead formulator responsible for development of Chevron’s PC-11 product line upgrade. Whitacre is the new chairman of the ASTM Heavy-Duty Engine Oil Classification Panel, which is tasked with the final development of the Proposed Category 11 (PC-11) requirements that take effect in late 2016.

Comments (2)

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  1.' PHIL NOLOT says:

    Mr Whitacre – I’m guessing synblend oils contain maybe 30% (+ or -) synthetic ? Since there is no industry standard, this category leaves a lot of room for deception. I’m also wondering, since the product is mostly mineral (group 2 ) oil with its mineral oil limitations, does the addition of some synthetic actually improve the product an appreciable amount ? Or would you actually be better off going to a full synthetic product ?

    • Shawn Whitacre says:

      Phil- thanks for your question. It is a good one. Engine oil formulation is truly a balancing act, and using some synthetic base oil is typically needed to meet viscosity requirements of the new categories. But the improvements don’t come simply by replacing one base oil with another. It really is the base stock working together with the additive package to meet the performance requirements of the finished product. In some cases that requires part or full synthetic, and in other cases the requirements can be meet with high quality conventional base oils.


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