Lubricants are a blend of base oil and performance additives. Neste Oil produces high-quality PAO and EHVI base oils at its own production facilities in Belgium and Porvoo, Finland. The base oils are generally transported by tankers. Depending on the volumes, additives from a number of international manufacturers are transported to the blending plants by ship or in containers or drums.
Lubricant production is based on the formulas developed by each oil company. Neste Oil products are developed in Finland. Attention has been paid to Finland's special conditions during product development.
Production usually takes place in batches of 1,000-30,000 kg, analysed by the quality control laboratory before packing. This ensures that the finished product meets the quality requirements.
In lubricant production, it is possible to use either mineral base oils, made from crude oil, or synthetic fluids made through a chemical process.
The selection of a base oil or fluid has a fundamental effect on the quality and operating properties of the product. By blending mineral and synthetic base oils, it is also possible to produce partly synthetic lubricants whose properties are between those of mineral oils and fully synthetic oils.
Mineral base oils
Modern mineral base oils are the result of a long and complex distillation and refining processes. The feedstock used is crude oil. This substance is not of uniform quality but consists of several thousands of hydrocarbon compounds in which the elements carbon and hydrogen are present in all molecules and, in part, are bound to other elements.
The hydrocarbons can be divided into three main groups: paraffinic, naphthenic and aromatic.
Paraffinic hydrocarbons can be further divided into two subgroups: normal paraffinic and isoparaffinic. Paraffinic hydrocarbons are the best lubricants.
The distillation process in the refinery separates the hydrocarbons contained in the crude into cuts based on the molecule size.
Furthermore, as many unwanted substances as possible are removed in the process, such as sulphur, aromatic hydrocarbons, paraffin wax, etc. In other words the mineral oil production process is physical cleaning and the end product is so-called paraffinic base oil.
Most of the hydrocarbons in the base oil are paraffinic, but it also contains naphthenic and aromatic molecules. When the finished lubricant, such as motor oil, is made of these, several additive compounds are used to improve the base oil properties.
The final outcome can also be so-called naphthenic base oil, where most of the hydrocarbons are naphthenic. Their cold properties are excellent.
EHVI and VHVI base oils
VHVI (Very High Viscosity Index) oil, produced from crude oil using special processes, can be made to have properties close to those of synthetic oils. Raw material of the VHVI base oil is paraffinic hydrocracking fraction which is improved by removing waxes using the solvent extraction method.
Unlike VHVI, the manufacture of Neste EHVI (Extra High Viscosity Index) base oil is based on the catalytic isomerization and hydrogenation of hydrocarbon molecules, which results base oil stability and cold properties exceeding those of VHVI oil.
The use of these base oils as components of modern motor oils is increasing, due to engine constructions that are more demanding in terms of lower emission properties and the new quality requirements of vehicle manufacturers.
Synthetic base oils
The group of synthetic base oils covers many different substances: synthetic hydrocarbons, organic esters, polyalkyline glycols, etc. Common to synthetic base oils is their production by a chemical process.
Synthetic PAO (Polyalphaolefine) hydrocarbons are manufactured in a process that results in isoparaffins, the desired types of hydrocarbon molecules. The raw material used is reprocessed ethene gas (C2H4).
It is thus possible to produce the best possible lubricating oil, which entirely lacks the unwanted components, through chemical processes. This is the most commonly used synthetic base oil in modern engine lubricants.
At the production stage, the base oils for lubricants have gone through many quality-improving and cleaning stages that contribute to the properties required in future use.
Additives can also improve the oil's cold properties, viscosity index and oxidation resistance, to enhance corrosion, pressure and wear resistance, and to prevent foaming.
In addition, the cleaning additives used in modern engine oils keep the pistons and inner parts of the engine clean of carbon and sludge deposits that tend to form impurities and high operating temperatures.
Various types of lubricants
Lubricants suitable for various uses are produced by selecting the right type of base oil or base oil blend, to which the additives are then added according to the defined use. Manufacture takes place at the lubricant plant, and each batch goes through quality control at the laboratory.