Ever-increasing demands placed on lubricant performance and properties by equipment builders, customers and regulatory agencies will require the application of a broad range of manufacturing and product development technologies as we move into the 21st century. This presentation describes the integrated, value chain, approach being taken by Mobil Oil Corporation to ensure that the needs of these various stakeholders are met in both an efficient and cost-effective manner. Critical activities along the lubricant value chain impacted by technology and discussed in this paper include petroleum crude selection, mineral and synthetic base stock manufacture, additive selection and procurement, establishment of performance profiles, product formulation and evaluation, lubricant application and environmental stewardship including product reclamation. The differing roles of mineral, synthetic and environmentally aware lubricants in meeting end user requirements including energy efficiency, enhanced equipment reliability, extended operating capabilities, environmental impact and waste minimization are also discussed.
Recognizing that the needs of equipment manufacturers and end users are the prime elements that will shape how lubricants are formulated, manufactured and marketed in the future makes the understanding of these needs a logical place to begin our discussion of lubricants for the 21st century.
The performance level of lubricants is governed by many interdependent factors. These factors are ultimately controlled by a combination of the design and operating conditions of the equipment to be lubricated, real and perceived customer expectations, government regulations and the capabilities of lubricant suppliers.
Equipment design and operating conditions determine many of the key physical and chemical properties of lubricants such as viscosity, thermal and oxidative stability, and shear stability. In some cases the required performance level is determined by reaching certain performance levels in one or more standard tests that are recognized within industry standard setting organizations, as is the case for the American Petroleum Institute (API) in the United States and the Association des Constructeurs Europeens d'Automobiles (ACEA) in Europe for automotive engine oils. In other cases there are no universally accepted standards so there is a greater reliance on individual equipment manufacturer specifications; for example, gear and bearing manufacturers. This is especially true in the industrial sector where customers are generally most interested in extended equipment life, maximizing equipment availability, optimizing economics and minimizing overall operating and production c