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Polyalphaolefins FAQ

Meet the PAO experts

From left-to-right, Ken Hope, General PAO Technical Services Manager; EngSoon Ho, Asia PAO Sales Manager; Greg Henke, Americas PAO Sales Manager; Svenja Jacob, Area Sales Manager; Yorick Hautekiet, Area Sales Manager PAO; Bart Koffi, EMEA Product Manager NAO/PAO; Michel Sanchez-Rivas, Business Development Manager PAO. 

Ask the Experts

Our team of experts answer the most frequently asked questions. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions!

Now that fuel economy is more important than ever, even a one percent improvement can make a significant difference on overall costs. The vast number of high-quality base oil choices can be daunting when trying to balance fuel efficiency and wear protection. One obvious trend is that low-viscosity oils are beneficial in improving fuel efficiency. However, moving to lower-viscosity oils is a possibility only if you can maintain a low Noack volatility for emissions control and lubricant stability.

Can Synfluid® PAOs improve fuel economy, reducing both costs and carbon emissions, without sacrificing lubrication performance

As the chart above shows, lower-viscosity oils can be made without sacrificing low volatility by using PAO base oils. To improve fuel economy, OEMs are moving toward lower-viscosity oils, even in heavy-duty diesel engines. The most favorable performance is achieved by using the highest-quality base oils. For the highest quality and performance, choose Synfluid® PAO.

There are many advantages! For instance, Chemtool Incorporated utilizes Synfluid® PAOs in greases, and they have been able to formulate their products to take specific advantage of Synfluid® PAO properties, yielding improvements in low-temperature mobility and torque. These properties translate into easier distribution of the grease and improved energy efficiency in the equipment. As an example of the improved low-temperature torque properties of the PAO-based grease, the chart below shows torque values for Chemtool’s CSC 980 grease under ASTM D 4693 test conditions for rotation of a wheel-bearing assembly at -40°C. The results indicate that the CSC 980 Tan grease has a running torque of 3.77 N-m versus 10.9 N-m for the same grease with an alternate base oil. Lowering torque reduces the energy requirements of the equipment and improves grease distribution.

What are some advantages of using PAO as a base oil in greases

There are other advantages, such as oxidative and thermal stability, which you would naturally expect from a PAO-based product.

That’s a hot topic! There are several systems where we have observed a reduction in the operating temperature compared to mineral oils, including transmissions, engines and heat transfer applications. Why does this happen? We believe it can be understood by looking at the thermal conductivity and specific heat of the base oils.

Thermal conductivity is the measure of the ability to conduct heat. Specific heat is the amount of heat per unit mass required to raise the temperature one degree Celsius. The chart below shows that the PAO has a higher specific heat, which means that the PAO is better at absorbing heat. Furthermore, thermal conductivity at 300°F for PAO 6 is 0.085 compared to 0.071 Btu•ft/(h•ft2•°F) for an equiviscous mineral oil, which means that the PAO can conduct 20 percent more heat than the mineral oil for better heat dissipation.

Specific Heat of PAO vs Mineral Oil

Chemical kinetics tell us that if you reduce the temperature, you will reduce the reaction rate. Oxidative and other lubricant degradation mechanisms would follow the same trend. Therefore, reducing the temperature is generally beneficial in extending the life of a lubricant.

With many new base oils being introduced to the market, lubricant consistency can really be a challenge. Chevron Phillips Chemical has been producing two families of PAOs for close to 25 years. Our C10-based products, commercialized in the 1970s, were the first in the market. And we pioneered and patented our unique C12-based PAOs in the 1990s.

As shown in the chart below, our PAOs have shown very little fluctuation over the years, with stable viscosities at 100, 40 and -40°C — even as we’ve made improvements to characteristics such as oxidative stability. Consistent feedstocks give rise to consistent PAO quality, resulting in consistent finished fluid performance.

PAO 6 vs PAO 7

Business never stands still, but you can always count on dependable Chevron Phillips Chemical Synfluid® PAOs. Give us a call. We’re here to help.

Certainly! PAOs demonstrate advantages in three key areas: safety, performance and environmental sensitivity. PAOs are uniquely suited to aviation hydraulics because of the inherently high flash/fire points and low volatility. This resistance to fire and flame propagation improves the margin of safety in the event of a hydraulic leak. Our C12-based grades further improve flash/fire points by as much as 10 percent over other commercial polyalphaolefins. For other applications, PAOs’ safe and non-toxic nature allows them to be used where incidental food contact certification or kosher approval is necessary. With regard to performance, PAOs are able to maintain excellent thermal and oxidative stability at high operating temperatures in addition to the low-temperature benefits for which they are known.

PAO Advantages

Since we are all concerned with the protection of our environment, it is important to note some PAOs can be formulated with other components into biodegradable fluids. Because a certain level of biodegradability can be achieved without sacrificing PAOs’ key benefits, a finished lubricant based on a PAO/biobased blend will maintain superior properties over an extended period of time, resulting in less waste. Give us a call to discuss how Synfluid® PAOs can withstand the pressure in your hydraulic applications.

Of course, and your options are growing! Using Chevron Phillips Chemical Synfluid® PAOs, OM Group (“OMG”) has developed a revolutionary new, lower-temperature, abbreviated process for producing greases. By utilizing this new process combined with the inherent properties of PAOs, a grease can be produced that can be used in both extreme high- and low-temperature applications. Furthermore, the process is a simpler, more energy-efficient route for grease production. The chart below shows the operating temperature range of a PAO-based, OMG process grease versus comparable mineral-oil-based grease. A grease formulated with Synfluid® PAO and OMG’s Calciplex® grease precursor could yield a multipurpose product, which allows for consolidation of your grease inventory.

Operating Temperature Range

If you are using multiple greases, there are certain risks for misapplication, which are minimized with a multi-purpose grease. In addition, a PAO-based multi-purpose grease can be formulated to be both H1 and kosher approved. Give us a call. We look forward to helping you consolidate your grease cabinet!

Glad you asked! Due to constraints with the supply of 1-decene, the traditional feedstock for PAOs, producers have experimented with alternative feedstocks to meet demand. This is a recurring situation and is what led to the development of 1-dodecene based Synfluid® PAOs in 1995. Initially, it was intended to fill the gap in supply and was found to be exceptionally suitable for applications where extremely low pour points were not necessary. Our customers quickly realized the advantages in volatility, low-temperature viscometrics, VI and flash and fire points in equiviscous blends compared to 1-decene-based materials. These 1-dodecene-based products (Synfluid® 2.5, 5, 7 and 9cSt PAOs) are now recognized to have superior performance in their own applications. The chart below shows the exceptional fire point advantages of using a 1-dodecene based PAO.

I’ve heard about new PAOs based on other feedstocks that reportedly have improved properties.

We were the first to offer these materials to the marketplace, and many years of experience with 1-dodecene-based PAOs has helped us to refine the process and deliver very high-quality products. Give us a call, and we’ll be happy to discuss our high-quality Synfluid® PAOs with you.

Not necessarily. According to the U.S. government, “biobased” is defined as at least 44% biobased carbon content for hydraulic fluids. Although PAOs are not considered biobased themselves, in a blend they contribute certain performance benefits. Specifically, soybean-derived oils or other bio-derived oils alone would not meet some oxidative stability and low-temperature performance requirements. These are areas where PAOs excel. Using PAOs with biobased oils can provide both high performance and biodegradability. A product developed by Renewable Lubricants Inc. (RLI), with assistance from Chevron Phillips Chemical, uses Synfluid® PAOs combined with biobased oils and specially designed additives. This is compared to a conventional hydraulic fluid in the chart below. This new system improves the viscosity properties, which should be more energy conserving and achieves the ultimate biodegradation rating — ASTM D5864-PW1.

Are biobased hydraulic fluids of lesser quality than normal hydraulic fluids

Typically, petroleum-base oils are not synonymous with terms like green or environmentally friendly. However, Synfluid® PAOs can be formulated to be biodegradable and are well known for standing out from conventional base oils.

A formulator choosing the right base oil is like a craftsman choosing the right tool — it needs to fit the job. The current trend toward lower viscosities, while providing for extended drain capabilities, does present an interesting challenge for base oils. Typically, as the viscosity drops, the volatility increases. To mitigate this effect, We recommend taking a look at Synfluid® PAO 5 and PAO 7, due to their excellent Noack volatilities of 5.5% and 2.3%, respectively. This property coupled with excellent oxidative stability provides a formidable component in an engine oil formulator’s toolbox. When PAO 5 and PAO 7 are compared to equiviscous blends of other PAOs, the volatility advantage can be seen more clearly. The chart below shows the comparison of PAO 4 and PAO 6 blended to the same viscosity as PAO 5, as well as PAO 6 and PAO 8 blended to the same viscosity as PAO 7. In both cases, the reduction in volatility will translate to lower oil consumption and reduced engine varnish over the life of the oil.

Volatility Comparison of Equiviscous Blends

Synfluid® PAO 5 and PAO 7 also offer several advantages in addition to the volatility, such as low pour point, high viscosity index, improved oxidative stability and excellent low-temperature viscosities.

You’re not kidding! High energy costs have hit both businesses and consumers hard, and the pressure is on to conserve. Based on recent average gas prices, conserving just 1% to 2% of the U.S. fuel consumption per year would save $14 million per day.

Reducing the viscosity of engine and drivetrain oils lowers fuel consumption by decreased churning losses and viscous drag. In drivetrain lubricants, reducing the traction coefficient and lowering viscosity are key ways to increase fuel economy, but lower viscosity must be balanced to provide adequate wear resistance.

PAO-base oils help improve fuel economy in engine and drivetrain oils by reducing viscosity, volatility and traction coefficients as the chart below shows:

Traction coefficient

These results show the potential for reducing friction loss using PAOs, which also typically have lower pressure-viscosity coefficients than mineral oils — reducing elastohydrodynamic gear friction losses and energy consumption. Whether it’s transportation or industrial lubes, greater fuel efficiency means lower operating costs.

Group III mineral oils and Group IV PAOs are not of the same quality. Some properties such as Viscosity Index (VI) or °C viscosity can approach those of PAOs. However, Group III base stocks are derived from multiple feedstock choices and processing technologies, which create variability in the properties. PAOs on the other hand are derived from a clearly defined processing technology using petrochemically pure alpha olefins. So, whether used for gear or engine oils, PAOs provide more consistent properties and a level of purity not available from other base oil groups. The uniquely beneficial quality of PAOs has been demonstrated in a series of European engine tests. Three stringent test standards required by Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz engines show the impact of the variability of Group III oils:

Has the quality of Group III base oils achieved equality with PAOs?

This data illustrates lot-to-lot variability, which has been recognized for the Group III oils. While one lot of Group IIIA mineral oil passed this battery of tests, it is quite different from the quality of the other Group III stocks. Group IIIB was unable to consistently pass the TDI or M111 tests. Furthermore, the arbitrary distinction of 120 VI between Group II and III oils makes the quality requirements even more confusing. For instance, many producers have tailored production to “Group II+” stocks at 118–119 VI, just below the ambiguous Group III limit of 120VI. The VI of PAOs typically only varies one to two points. This is one clear benefit of using a carefully designed base oil. With today’s oils requiring a higher-quality lubricant basestock to meet more stringent tests, polyalphaolefins are perfectly tailored and consistently manufactured to meet the challenge.

Absolutely! Polyalphaolefins offer great high temperature properties and low volatility. Because metalworking processes can generate heat, these properties give you an intrinsic safety margin over the more volatile oils that are typically used. Additionally, PAOs have high viscosity indices, which lead to less film thickness reduction at elevated temperatures. In terms of viscosity, there are tradeoffs in choosing one PAO over another: energy consumption (heat dissipation and production throughput) versus safety of operations (impacted by flash/fire points and volatility). Chevron Phillips Chemical offers two lines of PAOs. The dodecene-based products offer lower volatility at comparable viscosities to the decene-based products. The chart below shows specific properties of four of our PAO grades that are well-suited to metalworking applications. The differences in flash, fire, volatility and viscosity highlight the flexibility benefits of using a Synfluid® PAO.

Can PAOs improve the safety margin in metalworking applications?

Furthermore, PAOs are H-1 approved for incidental food contact and have good organoleptic properties, which broaden the range of end-use applications for metals. To help you optimize your application, Chevron Phillips Chemical offers a wide variety of PAOs delivering oxidative and thermal stability advantages.

Driveline specifications continue to become more stringent. Changes in low-temperature viscometrics and oxidative stability requirements demand higher-quality base oils. Synfluid® PAOs are designed to provide stable viscosities at low temperature and excellent viscometrics and deliver oxidative stability. The chart below shows the trends in industry specifications regarding low-temperature performance relative to Synfluid® PAO. Additives will increase the overall viscosities; however, PAO base oil leaves plenty of room for meeting specifications.

How can your PAOs help me meet these challenges

In addition to meeting current limits, a lower viscosity will reduce energy consumption. Furthermore, the advantages of exceeding the minimum requirements for driveline fluids will enhance the benefits of the finished lubricant. We expect that specifications for driveline fluids will continue to tighten due to pressure from energy conservation, improved transmission design and fluid longevity. Synfluid® PAOs have helped you to meet industry specifications in the past.

First, don’t touch the gear box; you will burn your hand. However, PAOs can help. One key advantage PAOs have over mineral oils is a greater ability to dissipate heat. In a comparison of gear lubricants, PAOs reduced the effective operating temperature by as much as 10 – 20°C. The chart below illustrates the relative effect base oils have on the operating temperatures in a modified four-ball machine. Better heat transfer coefficients, increased lubricity and the basic chemical structure of PAOs all contribute to the lower temperature in the gearbox.

Effect of Base Oil Type on Gear Box Temperatures

Effect of Base Oil Type on Gear Box Temperatures

Sustained operations at elevated temperatures increase the rate of oxidation and other degradation reactions. Conversely, if you reduce the temperature, the reaction rate decreases and the oil lasts longer, providing better protection. We have measured a 25 percent improvement in oxidation induction times simply by decreasing the test temperature by 10 degrees. This clearly shows that a PAO base oil substitution can significantly lower operating temperatures of the gear box and extend the required maintenance interval. You can see a medical doctor for your burn, but Dr. Ken Hope can help with your base oil and formulation challenges.

It’s estimated that over 100 million gallons of fluids leak from hydraulic machinery and other lubricant equipment in North America each year! Leaking fluids from equipment used in sensitive geographical areas can have long-term negative consequences on the environment. The 2002 U.S. Farm Bill Act mandates government agencies to purchase environmentally safe, biobased (vegetable oil) lubricants. The challenge presented to a formulator is maintaining the performance levels while achieving biodegradability. A solution, developed by Renewable Lubricants Inc. (RLI) with assistance from Chevron Phillips Chemical, is the use of Synfluid PAOs combined with biobased oils and specially designed additives. While typical hydraulic oils are not biodegradable, this new system achieves the “ultimate” biodegradation rating (ASTM D5864 – PW1) and even improves several performance parameters, not previously attainable. The table below shows a comparison of conventional hydraulic oils with the new PAO biobased lubricant from RLI.

Comparison of conventional hydraulic oils

Benefits of the new system are a much higher viscosity index (VI), superior pour points and improved low-temperature fluidity, all of which contribute to improved energy efficiency. Furthermore, these new formulations allow a range of ISO viscosity grades. This same technology can also be beneficial for biobased gear lubricants, chain and cable lubricants/greases, and other applications for equipment used in sensitive environmental areas.

Rotary screw compressor oils formulated with PAO offer performance benefits not obtainable with a mineral-oil-based formulation. Synfluid PAOs provide outstanding improvements in oxidation stability, volatility, water separability and viscometrics, greatly improving oil and hardware longevity.

Property Comparison

PAO-based rotary screw compressor oil offers better performance in the compressor. For instance, excellent water separation improves compressor operability by reducing the chance of emulsion formation. The superior low-temperature flow characteristics of PAOs ensure faster coating of critical parts in the compressor during startup, minimizing wear. The lower volatility decreases oil replacement costs by reducing oil consumption. Finally, greater oxidative stability extends oil life and keeps the compressor clean for a longer service interval. These advantages are achieved without the need for VI improvers or other additives, which may promote other deleterious effects as they degrade. The magnitude of these benefits will depend on the particular formulation.

Having a high viscosity index helps to protect an engine at temperature extremes. However, VI doesn’t tell the whole story — it only reflects the viscosity/temperature relationship between 40°C and 100°C. But what happens below 40°C?

High temperatures can thin and break down oil, crippling its lubricating ability, whereas low temperatures can rob a lubricant of its ability to reach critical parts. Two lubricants with the same VI may perform dramatically differently at low temperatures. Note the differences between a VHVI mineral oil and Synfluid® Polyalphaolefin (PAO) 5 in the Scanning Brookfield chart below.

Scanning Brookfield Comparison

Oils made with PAOs demonstrate an inherently high viscosity index and maintain excellent low-temperature performance, compared with mineral oils. While viscosity improvers can enhance VI, they can break down over time, resulting in diminished performance. The reason a PAO is selected as a lubricant basestock is its ability to improve performance and solve problems.

Synfluid® PAOs are crafted from an on-purpose process that yields a consistent, high-quality product. Refined mineral oils often contain sulfurs, aromatics and other compounds that can erode the quality and consistency of a mineral oil. These compounds are not discernable in Synfluid® PAOs. This provides several advantages, one of which can be illustrated by gas chromatography.

Comparison of basestocks (GC)

Synfluid® PAOs have very narrow molecular weight ranges, which are attributed to our high-purity feedstocks. High molecular weight compounds will degrade pour point, cold crank and other low-temperature viscometrics. Low molecular weight compounds will degrade other performance requirements, such as volatility, flash and fire points. Since there are no other discernable compounds, Synfluid® PAOs are more readily biodegradable and can be used for some food applications. You see, PAOs are carefully designed, not refined. After all, the reason a PAO is selected as a lubricant basestock is its ability to improve performance and solve problems.

PAOs demonstrate advantages in three key areas: safety, performance and environmental sensitivity.

PAO Advantages

Aviation hydraulics require the use of PAOs because of the inherently high flash/fire points and low volatility. This resistance to fire and flame propagation improves the margin of safety in the event of a hydraulic leak. Our unique PAO 2.5cSt further improves flash/fire points by as much as 10 percent over other commercial polyalphaolefins. For other applications, PAO’s safe and non-toxic nature allows it to be used where incidental food contact certification or kosher approval is necessary.

Lower-viscosity PAOs have a unique property of biodegradability. Since this can be achieved without sacrificing hydrolytic stability, the finished lubricant will maintain superior properties over an extended period of time, resulting in less waste.

With regard to performance, PAOs are able to maintain excellent thermal and oxidative stability as well as the low-temperature benefits they are known for. These advantages show that PAOs address problems other fluids cannot.

Oxidative stability is a critical property enabling oils to resist sludge formation and degradation while in service. PAO-based lubricants offer a significant advantage in oxidative stability. The rotary bomb bench test is a strong predictor of how base oils will perform in many automotive and industrial applications. The chart below shows rotary bomb (ASTM D2272) results between Synfluid® PAOs and some mineral oils.

Synfluid and Mineral Oils

Synfluid® PAOs have been carefully designed to yield oxidative induction times greater than 2,500 minutes with 0.5 percent antioxidant. This is a far greater benefit than can be achieved from other base oils.

PAOs also resist viscosity increases upon oxidation, which is important in sequence IIIE and VW T4 engine tests. These combined benefits provide the properties required for severe service applications and extended drain intervals.

The advantages offered in oxidative stability, coupled with superior volatility and low-temperature viscometrics, clearly demonstrate that Synfluid® PAOs are the highest-quality base oils available in the industry.

There are indeed pressures in the industry that require improved oxidative stability. Engine oil tests such as VW T-4 and Seq. III F challenge formulators, and their suppliers, to step up performance for the next generation of engine oils. The relationship between antioxidants (A.O.) and PAO plays an integral part of meeting the challenge for top-tier oils.

Regarding the A.O. package, an optimal PAO formulation will be different than that of mineral oils. For instance, a 100 percent aminic antioxidant package will yield the best performance in the Rbot test for PAO. In contrast, a mineral oil will require various antioxidants depending upon the structural makeup.

Pressures in the lubricants industry demand higher oxidative stability.

This chart illustrates another benefit of using Synfluid® PAOs at increased antioxidant treat rates. Using the same PAO, we achieved 15 percent higher oxidative stability by increasing the A.O. concentration from 0.5 percent to 1 percent.

The key to unlocking the full potential of your formulation requires using the right combination and concentration of antioxidant and Synfluid® PAO.

In the past three years, European specifications for volatility and oxidative stability have become significantly more stringent. Specific tests such as the Volkswagen T-4, TDI and Peugeot TU-5 have increased the demand for higher-quality base oils. The superior benefits of PAOs enable formulators to meet these challenges. The chart below illustrates how Chevron Phillips Chemical has come up with an economical solution to a VW T-4 engine test.

how Chevron Phillips Chemical has come up with an economical solution to a VW T-4 engine test

The chart compares two different formulations, one with PAO and another with Group III mineral oils The End of Test viscosity increase left very little room for error in the Group III formulation. Blending lower-quality base oils into this formulation would compromise the passing mark. In contrast, the Synfluid® PAO formulation achieves a pass with as little as 30 percent PAO, the balance being Group I mineral oil. We believe that it is possible to achieve a passing mark with even lower amounts of PAO, further reducing costs.

European specifications, as well as those in other regions, are expected to tighten. This will increase the dependence on high-quality base oils such as PAOs. Challenges like these truly reveal the performance advantages of Synfluid® PAOs.

Because PAOs have a diverse, highly branched isoparaffin structure, they provide excellent low-temperature viscometrics and very low pour points (ppt) without adding PPDs. PPDs act only on linear or waxy compounds, and these characteristics are absent from PAOs. With Synfluid® PAO 4 cSt having a ‑73°C ppt and ‑40°C viscosity of 2,380 cSt, a PPD is not necessary.

Comparison of 4 cSt PAO and WHVI

The Scanning Brookfield chart on this page demonstrates the difference in viscometrics between a Synfluid® PAO and a pour point depressed mineral oil. A Group III mineral oil with a 0.1 percent PPD achieves an improved pour point, but to the detriment of the low-temperature viscometrics. You would expect the viscosity to improve with a lower pour point, but the opposite is true. As a result, the jump in the viscosity adversely effects the ability to pump at low temperatures. Some specifications have a low-temperature MRV requirement. You see, “the jump hurts the pump.”

Adding a PPD will reduce the pour point of a mineral oil, but it still will not achieve the performance of a PAO.

Absolutely! The ability of a lubricant to reach critical metal-to-metal interfaces in a gear system can be the difference between operation or shutdown. As pressure increases, so too does the viscosity of the lubricant. The viscosity at an extreme pressure (hp) changes exponentially with pressure (P) as described in the following formula:


a is the pressure coefficient for a base oil. The higher the coefficient, the greater the change in viscosity at elevated pressures. In these extreme services, a PAO-based lubricant is able to reach the area that requires lubrication and prevent damage or wear. The chart below shows pressure coefficient comparisons between PAOs and Group III mineral oils versus pressure:


Gear systems are specially designed and require highly specialized lubricants. PAOs help meet and exceed the formulation requirements necessary in a wide variety of specifications, including Allison TES-295, Eaton PS-162 and Mil-2105.

The benefit of a lubricant to the end user is an important question, and the behavior of a base oil is only one of many variables affecting the performance of a finished formulation. A process enhancement at Chevron Phillips Chemical’s manufacturing facility has resulted in up to a 30 percent improvement in oxidative stability when used with aminic antioxidants in Rotary Bomb Oxidation Tests (RBOT). Focusing on the components of the additive package can further influence the performance of the formulation.

No matter what the combination of additive or base oil, one thing is certain: When you begin with a higher-quality base oil, you will achieve a better formulation in the end. The chart below shows an example of an engine oil formulation with two different quality PAOs.

Pressurized DSC on Formulated Engine Oil

This formulation achieved a 13% benefit when the PAO was directly substituted with Synfluid® PAO. In our experience, some commercially available additive packages are designed to take better advantage of a specific base stock. For instance, boosting the additive package with an additional 0.4% aminic antioxidant, in combination with the Synfluid® PAO base oil, achieved a 35 percent improvement in HPDSC results. A similar approach can be applied to your formulations or applications. If you would like us to test your formulation or have questions about our formulating experience, give us a call. We’ll be happy to help you solve your lubricant concerns.

The choice of C10- or C12-derived PAO depends on the application and/or specification requirements. The C12-derived PAOs were created to give better volatility, giving formulators four new options when choosing PAOs. The primary difference between these two products is pour point. If a certain application can sacrifice a 10 – 15°C increase in the pour point, then there is as much as a 25% improvement in volatility, as shown in the chart below.

Property comparison

C12-derived PAOs also provide advantages with higher Viscosity Index (VI), better flash/fire points, and even lower cold crank simulated viscosities. While pour point is one consideration, a formulator has to take into account the total specification needs. For example, one would not be able to make an 0W-20 oil with a C12-derived PAO as the viscosities are too high. However, these products have demonstrated unique advantages in Sequence IIIF, VW T4 and TDI tests due to many of the other properties that are inherent in them. There are emerging markets that demand the improved VI and volatility that only the C12-based PAOs can deliver.

To get a superior lubricant, you need to start with a superior base oil. The vast number of “high-quality” base oil choices can be confusing when balancing fuel efficiency and wear protection. Some claim the Viscosity Index (VI) is the overriding parameter used when choosing a base oil. Although VI is an important indicator, when used alone, VI is misleading. Other base oil properties need to be considered. The chart differentiates the blending capabilities of various base oils to meet energy-efficient motor oils. The VI trend is only true for a family of base oils. The trend falls short when comparisons are made between PAOs and mineral oils, based solely on the VI. As the chart below shows, greater energy efficient, lower viscosity oils can be made through the selection of PAO, without sacrificing volatility.

Impact of VI on Lubricant Blending

Impact of VI on Lubricant Blending

The most favorable performance is achieved by using the highest-quality base oils. It is true there are many high-quality base oils around, but the highest quality is still achieved when Synfluid® PAOs are chosen.

You bet! PAOs are Newtonian fluids; in other words, their viscosities are fairly independent of shear rate. As fluids flow throughout the equipment, they travel through various lubrication regimes and shear environments, resulting in viscosity changes for non-Newtonian fluids. The effects of the shear rate differences are even more exaggerated at low-temperature startup conditions, when the lubricant function is critical for equipment protection.

The chart below shows the effect of two different shear rate viscosity determinations on three different fluids (4 cSt at 100°C) and the dramatic differences between them. The tests used below were the Cold Cranking Simulator for high shear (about 10-1 sec-1) and Brookfield viscosity for low shear (about 2 sec-1) each measured at -20°C.

Effects of Shear Rate on Viscosity on 4 cSt Fluids

Fluids are typically subjected to various shear and temperature conditions. As the chart above clearly demonstrates, the difference in viscosity as a function of shear rate is magnified as temperature decreases. PAOs help to balance the protection and energy conservation requirements in equipment because they are more Newtonian than mineral oils. Understanding this advantage is important for optimizing the performance of today’s fluids and improving the life of equipment.

Great question! We agree, deciphering the requirements that allow you to identify your products as eco-friendly — such as the upcoming BioPreferred℠ label — can be mind-boggling! Synfluid® PAO improves finished lubricant performance when formulated into biodegradable and biobased lubricants in low-temperature viscometrics and oxidative stability. So you can look to Synfluid® PAO to help you formulate lubricants with both environmental benefits and outstanding performance properties.

The chart below shows biodegradation test results for Synfluid® PAO 2.5, 4 and C12 Dimer, which indicate that these products could qualify as inherently biodegradable according to the ASTM D5864 test method.

Biodegradability, ASTM D5864

Synfluid® PAOs are already known for their excellent low-temperature and oxidative stability properties. They may also be used to develop high-performance, environmentally friendly lubricants.

BioPreferred℠ is a registered service mark of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Volatility is a concern for many applications, especially where higher operating temperatures occur or longer service life is desired. As oil volatilizes, the viscosity increase will result in poorer overall performance. PAOs offer exceptionally low volatility due to their controlled formation, which yields carefully designed molecular weights.

But wait, it gets even better! PAOs derived from 1-dodecene can improve many properties, including volatility. The chart below shows the Noack volatility for both 1-decene and 1-dodecene based PAOs of varying viscosities.

Noack Volatility Comparison

PAO quality is unrivaled in the industry. The lower volatility of Synfluid® PAOs 5, 7 and 9 enhances the benefits for the highest quality lubricant. Whether for automotive or industrial applications, these products can improve performance and solve problems.

Remember, PAOs are carefully designed, not refined. Give us a call, and we’ll be glad to discuss your applications and provide technical help.

Grease is a solid to semi-fluid lubricant, typically used for “difficult to service” equipment, such as bearings or suspension systems. When you compound this with “difficult operating conditions,” such as extreme temperatures, high loads or extended operations, a high-quality base oil may be necessary. Low-temperature fluidity and high-temperature thermal and oxidative stability are key factors for choosing a PAO. This is especially true when you consider the entire operating temperature range including startup.

The qualitative chart below describes the impact of each grease component on certain performance characteristics:

impact of each grease component on certain performance characteristics

Clearly, the base oil dominates some grease properties, while the additives or thickener drives others. One example is the advantage PAO has over mineral oil in the area of high-temperature stability. PAO-based greases are typically used at temperatures over 100°C because of thermal and oxidative concerns. Each 10°C temperature rise can reduce oxidative stability by half. Therefore, at high temperatures, it is advantageous to utilize a more stable base oil, specifically Synfluid® PAO.

Synfluid® PAOs are qualified as technical white oils (per 21 CFR 178.3620(b)(1)) due to their clear, bright color and exceptional UV properties. Technical White Oils are approved for incidental food contact at USDA-approved meat and poultry plants. PAOs are considered a very pure substance since they are derived from petrochemically pure ethylene and then from 1-decene or 1-dodecene, which could be considered a further purification step. Synfluid PAOs also have a very high degree of saturation, which in lubricants provides oxidative stability. For white oil applications, this high saturation level would give a greater degree of chemical inertness.

The chart below shows the gas chromatogram of PAO versus white mineral oil, illustrating the relative enhanced purity of PAO. Since we use essentially pure 1-decene or 1-dodecene to produce Synfluid PAOs, there is a narrow isomeric distribution for each oligomer.

White Oil vs 4 cSt PAO

The mineral oil has both lighter and heavier molecular weight materials. The lighter components cause poorer volatility properties as well as lower flash and fire points. Heavier components adversely affect low-temperature performance and pour point.

So yes, PAOs can provide flexibility in your food-grade base oil selection, depending upon your performance requirements. Synfluid PAOs, in addition to NSF H1 qualification, are also available as kosher approved products.

Sometimes, one plus one can equal more than two. This is the case for blending Synfluid® PAO 5 and PAO 7. There are distinct advantages in volatility and low-temperature viscosity. What is most interesting, however, is the low-temperature performance: The C10-based PAO 6 has the lowest pour point by over 20°C, but the CCS viscosity for the C12-based PAO 5 and 7 blend is better. The difference in the CCS viscosity at -35°C is 15 percent, which is substantial.

Cold Cranking Simulator

In addition to the low temperature performance demonstrated by CCS, the volatility and viscosity index of the PAO 5 and 7 blend are improved over traditional PAO 6. If pour point is not a critical property in your application, then blending a PAO 5 and PAO 7 might give you that clear advantage that you are looking for.

When you add up the benefits, you may see that one plus one can make more than two. It is possible to get added property benefits from C12-based Synfluid® PAOs.

The limits on lowering the viscosity grade are tied to the base oil properties. As the viscosity grade decreases, the volatility and high-temperature/high-shear viscosity will be limiting factors. The chart below shows how Synfluid® PAOs can help meet these challenges with the excellent volatility properties of our PAO 5, 7 and 9 cSt grades.

how Synfluid® PAOs can help meet these challenge

One reason for moving to low-viscosity oils is to focus on initial and long-term fuel economy. Whichever low-viscosity base oil is used, it must exhibit viscosity stability and low volatility.

Chevron Phillips Chemical has consistently said that we would bring something to the market when we could provide products that are unique and offer advantages to our customers. Chevron Phillips Chemical’s Synfluid® mPAO 65, 100 and 150 cSt products have very high viscosity indices and lower pour points than other HV PAO products. Furthermore, we are able to achieve these properties with non-decene alpha olefin feedstocks while providing advantages over existing products and extending feedstock supply.

Viscosity Index

The chart above shows the exceptional pour points of Synfluid® mPAO 65, 100 and 150 cSt compared to traditional PAO 40 and 100 cSt. These excellent pour points are achieved while increasing the viscosity indices (VI) over traditional HV PAO. The VI of Synfluid® mPAO 40 and 100 cSt is 170 and 194, respectively.

The properties mentioned above are in addition to the normally excellent performance you have come to recognize with PAO.

Our Synfluid® mPAO is based on a single monomer, AlphaPlus® 1-Octene. The relative availability of olefin monomer was certainly a consideration (i.e., 1-octene vs. 1-decene). More importantly, however, was product performance. Chevron Phillips Chemical’s proprietary manufacturing process and monomer selection combine to produce the groundbreaking performance characteristics that our customers expect from Synfluid® polyalphaolefins. The table below shows how our new Synfluid® mPAOs offer significant advantages in pour point and viscosity index over conventional high-viscosity PAOs.

comparison table

In addition to these properties, we’ve also seen a significant reduction in the traction coefficient as compared to conventional high-viscosity PAOs.

I love to talk about food, and I love to talk about Synfluid® PAO! It’s great to have the opportunity to talk about both. Since they are fully synthetic, Synfluid® PAOs are extremely pure and provide inherent benefits in oxidative stability and viscosity performance at temperature extremes.

Low-viscosity Synfluid® PAOs are both NSF H1 and HX-1 registered. These products are acceptable for use as a lubricant (H1) or as a lubricant component (HX-1), with incidental food contact in and around food processing areas. They may also be used in applications and areas that may result in incidental food contact or on equipment where there is a potential exposure of the lubricated part to food, such as on food processing equipment as a protective anti-rust film.


In addition to these advantages, kosher certification for Synfluid® PAOs is available upon request.

There can be many benefits from choosing a high VI base fluid. As temperature increases, a higher VI fluid will give increased fluid film thickness, which could result in lower wear. As temperature decreases, a higher VI fluid will have reduced viscous drag, which could lead to higher horsepower and energy efficiency. It is really the formulator’s preference whether to increase the longevity of a vehicle’s moving parts, haul a heavier load, or save money at the fuel pump.

One way to achieve a higher VI base fluid is to shift from a decene-based PAO to a dodecene-based PAO. In the chart below, we highlight how moving from a decene-based Synfluid® PAO 6 to an iso-viscous dodecene-based fluid (resulting from a blend of PAO 5 and PAO 7) leads to a dramatic increase in VI.


Air is usually a really poor lubricant, so your frustration is understandable! The combination of air and oil can often lead to foaming issues. Getting the air to release from the lubricant is vital to allowing the lubricant to do its job.

The chart below shows a comparison of the foaming characteristics of our Synfluid® mPAO high-viscosity base oils with traditional high-viscosity PAO 40 and 100 cSt base oils. Both the foam tendency (the initial amount of foam generated in this test) and the time required for the foam to collapse are remarkably better for Synfluid® mPAO.

Foaming Characteristics

This is just one of the many performance advantages of Synfluid® mPAO.

Tiny bubbles … these can cause major issues, such as shorter lubricant life, increased fluid compressibility, lower fluid viscosity and cavitation. However, unlike foaming, entrained air can be a difficult problem to treat with additives.

We have found that Synfluid® metallocene polyalphaolefins (mPAOs) not only have low foaming characteristics, but they also exhibit rapid air release when compared to traditional high-viscosity PAOs. The plot below shows a comparison of the air release times exhibited by ISO VG 320 blends composed of our Synfluid® mPAOs, and traditional HV PAOs with PAO 8 cSt. Synfluid® mPAOs exhibit faster air release times, particularly when comparing the 100 cSt blends.


Our History

Chevron Phillips Chemical’s PAO history dates back to December 1980, when the continuous PAO unit at Cedar Bayou, Texas, started up with heritage Gulf Oil, which Chevron Chemical subsequently acquired in 1985. From then on, the company introduced 1-dodecene-based PAOs in 1995, which have grown steadily in popularity. After the formation of the Chevron Phillips Chemical joint venture in 2000, a 10 KTA PAO unit expansion followed soon thereafter. During 2011, Chevron Phillips Chemical acquired PAO assets in Beringen, Belgium, and began mPAO production in Texas. Since then, the company has expanded PAO as well as ethylene production, both basic building blocks for many petrochemical processes.

  • 1980
    Gulf Oil is the first company to commercialize PAO.
  • 1985
    Gulf and Chevron merge.
  • 1995
    Chevron is the first company to produce dodecane-based PAOs.
  • 2000
    Chevron Phillips Chemical is created.
  • 2000
    10kMta PAO expansion.
  • 2011
    Neste PAO assets acquisition.
  • 2011
    Synfluid® mPAO production starts.
  • 2017
    Cedar Bayou 10kMta PAO expansion.
  • 2017
    Cedar Bayou 1,500kMta ethylene unit expansion.