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Tom Schaefer: An Introduction

This is a discussion on Tom Schaefer: An Introduction within the Internal Engine forums, part of the LSx Technical Help Section category; As a result of studying various aspects of the lubricants industry, I came into contact with Tom Schaefer, former vice ...

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    Member CompSyn's Avatar
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    Post Tom Schaefer: An Introduction

    As a result of studying various aspects of the lubricants industry, I came into contact with Tom Schaefer, former vice president of sales and marketing for the Hatco Corporation. Schaefer, now retired, periodically contributes helpful tidbits of information with respect to the oil industry to motor oil enthusiasts. Some may recall the two “look sees” in which Mr. Schaefer claimed he noticed the presence of Group III base oils in two Mobil 1 Extended Performance motor oils when tested at Hatco’s laboratory. This finding sent shock waves throughout the Internet and solidified the suspicions of some that Mobil Oil Corp. reformulated their top tier synthetics to contain Group III base oils. This after loosing their case to Castrol North America Inc. as decided by the National Advertising Division in 1999. See the full five part article, A Defining Moment For Synthetics.

    In securing correspondence with Mr. Schaefer, I didn’t hesitate to ask him a few questions about Amsoil. I had recalled that Al Amatuzio utilized the Hatco Corporation to some degree in sixties for the development of Amsoil’s first synthetic motor oil. Compiled below is Mr. Schaefer’s recollection in regards to the Hatco/Amsoil historical account he personally witnessed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Schaefer (10/07/2008)
    I joined Hatco in 1969, so I was there (in the lab at the time) when the Hatco/Amsoil relation began. Al Amatuzio was the driving force behind the motor oil development as it was his concept and he was developing the marketing structure to sell it. The formulating was done by Hatco and an additive company, and Hatco did the ester manufacturing and oil blending while Amsoil arranged the packaging & distribution, so it was a joint effort. I don't recall there were any formal R&D agreements, just a close working relationship, and the oils developed for Al were to his specifications and sold exclusively to Amsoil.

    While others were selling synthetic motor oils before Amsoil, none were API certified oils and many failed. Amsoil was definitely the first company to market an API certified oil - 10W-40 SE/CC based on a diester. Yes the oil was formulated and manufactured by Hatco, but the concept, requirements, and marketing came from Al Amatuzio. Hatco had the technology but no means to market, while Al had the marketing capability but lacked the technology and manufacturing capability. It was a joint effort and neither could have succeeded without the other.

    There was no API certification program back then, but yes the oil was fully tested in all of the API engine sequence tests and passed all of the SAE specifications for SE/CC. In addition, it was reviewed by a military review board and approved under MIL-L-46152. It was the real deal.

    For the ancient history buffs, the oil was called Hatcol 2250 and contained Ditridecyl Adipate (diester), an Oronite DI package, a Rohm & Haas dispersant PMA type VII, and a supplemental anti-oxidant. It ran from 1972 to about 1976, at which point Hatco developed an improved version that later passed SF/CC.

    Hatco and Amsoil departed company in the late 70s as Amsoil's volume grew to a point where it made sense for them to develop and blend their own products. I retired last year so I do not know what relationship they may have today.

    Original “Amzoil” 10W-40 SE/CC, circa 1972

    As an Amsoil Independent Dealer, having the distinct opportunity to converse with Mr. Schaefer and discover the actual historical facts about the early years of Amsoil, Inc. was a shear delight. Getting this data straight from such a credible source is greatly appreciated. Special thanks to Tom Schaefer for his willingness to shed new light on this topic.

    Last edited by CompSyn; 12-20-2008 at 04:40 PM. Reason: Added link

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    Grand Imperial Wizard Sarge's Avatar
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    Good background stuff.

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    Post More Synthetic Nostalgia from Tom Schaefer

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Schaefer

    Okay old timers, remember this one? One of the early diester based synthetics, in business from 1973 to 1985. The original brand was Zonex, but "Ex-zon" took exception and paid them to change the name to Zenex.

    Did pretty well for a while, but their selling model of cold phone calls to auto parts stores had its limits. They later went public and tried selling franchises, but this too wasn't successful. Finally sold the business to a European distributor and merged the public shell with a medical company.

    Question: Who formulated Zenex and was it really capable of 25,000-mile oil change intervals?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Schaefer

    The oil was formulated and manufactured by Hatco.

    We did 25,000 mile drains in three test cars on a track (tire mileage accumulation piggyback testing) and it did very well - still in grade and low wear. The reference brand-name mineral oil was out of grade between 5-7k miles. A double Sequence III test passed all parameters and gave 0% viscosity increase.

    They marketed by phone to auto parts stores across the country, but I don't recall that they ever got any major chain shelf space.
    Question: While we are on this topic of “Synthetic Nostalgia”, what can you tells us about the 1973 Eon E-11 Houston Police Test?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Schaefer

    Interesting test. The Houston police car test was sponsored by Pacer Lubricants (President was John Williams who later started Royal Purple with his son Jody). They were rebranding a Hatco diester based 10W-40 SE/CC - in fact it was the same formulation Zenex started with. They had national press coverage watching the progress of the test.

    The UOA data after 25,000 no-drain hard-driven hot & dusty police miles was excellent. Had they stopped there, the test would have been a smashing success. Instead, they decided to go for 50,000 OCIs, and began losing engines in the 40,000+ mile range. In essence, not knowing how long it would go they ran it to failure, and hence the headlines were "Synthetic oil fails"! Real shame.

    The mode of engine failure was excessive wear, but what wasn't reported was that it was caused by dirt, not the oil. The oil filters were only changed once at 25,000 miles and the silicon results were through the roof. I personally reviewed the UOA data and plotted iron against silicon - drew a beautiful straight 45 degree line.

    It was a set back for synthetics. If you run a test to failure, the results will be failure. Took a while to climb out of that hole.
    Question: Were there ever any issues with the engine seals in these early di-ester base synthetic motor oils?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Schaefer

    Surprisingly there were very few complaints of any kind. Most complaints were about wear, but our analyses of the used oils invariably showed very high silicon levels or gross contamination with other oils, anti-freeze, or additives. Leaks were rare.
    Question: Was it ever determined what caused the high silicon levels in these motor oil tests.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Schaefer

    Regarding silicon, I don't recall if the filters were ever opened and examined, and the source of the silicon was never determined. More likely it came from bad air filters.
    Question: So issues with a bad air filter could be determintal to an extended oil change interval.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Schaefer

    Yes indeed - that is one of the biggest downsides of extending drains. Any dirt that gets in the oil has that much more time to do it's damage. If I were to do very long (25k) OCIs I would watch the air filter very carefully, change the oil filter, and do a UOA mid way. Personally I never exceed about 10k miles.
    Question: What were the additives like in these older extended drain motor oils e.g. TBN, Viscosity Improvers, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Schaefer

    While I used to personally run the TBNs when I worked in the QC lab back then, I don't recall at all what the values were. Besides, we used a different method back then (ASTM D-664). There must be some old data sheets still hanging around out there with TBN, TAN, and metals, but I don't have any. When I retired last year I took nothing.

    The VI improvers used were very shear stable, and considerably more expensive than the more common grades. The 0% viscosity increase in a double Seq III test on one formulation was more a function of oxidative stability than shear stability as the anti-oxidant level was significantly boosted with supplemental AOs.

    Regarding DI additive treatment levels, I believe they were generally higher than the conventional oils back then, and also more expensive. I did not find any competitive synthetics with low or no additives, and we looked at all we could get.

    We always formulated for optimum performance, not cost. These all ester formulations were so much more costly than conventional mineral oils that counting pennies was meaningless.
    Question: Besides Zenex, Eon, and Amsoil, how many synthetic motor oils were there in the 1970s.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Schaefer

    There were many smaller or short lived brands, including Certified Synthetic (N Carolina), Kling Oil, Freedom Oil (NJ), Keystone (Philadelphia), Zenex (Miami), HPS (High Performance Synthetic, Carlsbad, Cal), and probably a dozen others whose names do not leap to mind.

    These were all full ester based oils, as were all in the early 70s. Most were diesters, but some triesters were also used in the engine oils, and POEs in the gear oils and 2-stroke oils.
    Fascinating information about the early years of synthetic motor oils… Thanks Tom!


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    Good Read!

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    Part 1 of 2

    By Tom Schaefer
    published February 2009 Bob Is The Oil Guy

    I’m sure this is not new to many here and has been covered to various degrees in the past, but there are many newer members who wish to understand more about what is in a motor oil. To those I hope this may be helpful. To the professionals, chemists, and purists, don’t get too picky as this is written in layman terms to be understandable to the average guy.

    To a formulator, a motor oil is a complex blend of 10-15 ingredients carefully balanced and tested to meet the industry specifications and market claims. To a blender it can be as simple as mixing three liquids together and filling it into bottles. And to the consumer it is, for the most part, a mysterious golden fluid with confusing numbers and letters that all make the same claims about being the best product possible for your car. In reality, it is all of these things.

    While some oil producers blend many individual components to make their motor oils, most oils are made by simply blending three fluids; a DI package, a VI improver, and a base oil. These fluids, however, are the complex products of extensive research and technology. Following is a brief summary of each:

    DI Package

    An acronym for Detergent Inhibitor package, this thick dark fluid is a concentrated cocktail containing most of the performance additives needed to formulate an oil. DI packs are generally made by additive companies, the largest of which are Lubrizol (independent), Oronite (a Chevron Texaco company), and Infineum (ExxonMobil/Shell joint venture). These companies have extensive R&D facilities with numerous engine test stands for developing and qualifying motor oil formulations against various global standards. The development and testing costs are so high that they are beyond the reach of many oil blenders and marketers, so the work is usually left to these experts to concoct the formulation and give it to their customers. Naturally the approvals (SM, CF etc.) are only valid if one follows the formula, which requires that you use their DI pack in approved base oils. Some majors develop their own proprietary additive systems and buy the components instead of the complete package.

    The DI pack for an SM/CF passenger car motor oil is jam packed full of goodies as follows:

    Dispersants: These are chemicals that can disperse and suspend solid particles formed in the combustion of fuel that might otherwise be deposited in your engine as sludge. Consisting mainly of polyamine chemistry, these molecules have “polar heads” that attach to acidic molecules and solids such as soot, and a hydrocarbon tail that keeps it all in suspension until removed by the filter or oil change. Think of them as pollywogs who surround a particle – the fat heads bite the particle and the tails keeps them swimming. Dispersants are the largest component in the DI pack, especially in diesel formulations where there are a lot more soot particles to deal with.

    Detergents: Also polar in nature, these “organometalic” products made from organic chemicals and metals are responsible for neutralizing acids formed during the combustion process, and cleaning the engine from high temperature deposits by removing and preventing the adherence of deposit precursors. Some detergents are “overbased”, that is, forced to contain more metal atoms than they really want to, and are best at neutralizing acid by-products. Others are “neutral” detergents which are somewhat more effective at the cleaning process. The most common metal atoms used are Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), and Sodium (Na), and these are all measurable in the UOA and VOA analysis. The organic portions are usually sulfonates, phenates, and salicylates.

    Zinc Dialkyldithiophosphate: Affectionately known as “ZDDP”, this miracle multi-purpose chemical and has been the chief anti-wear (AW), extreme pressure (EP), and anti-oxidant (AO) additive for decades. It is so effective and low cost that it is virtually irreplaceable, which is why it survives all efforts to remove phosphorus (P) from oils to protect the catalyst. With modern oils putting caps on the maximum P allowed, other additives are now being used to supplement this old standard, such as Molybdenum anti-wear compounds and ashless anti-oxidants. There are different types of ZDDPs including primaries, secondaries, and aryls, each with its own strengths & weaknesses, and the mix is balanced to the type of service the oil will see.

    Anti-Oxidants: These sacrificial molecules react preferentially with oxygen to protect the other components from the degrading effects of oxidation. While oxygen is 21% of the air we breath, most people don’t realize that in its pure form it is so reactive it is considered a flammable gas! Even diluted in air, it is everywhere and wants to react with just about everything if conditions are right, such as high temperatures. Oxidation, the reaction with oxygen, is the main cause of oil thickening and left unchecked will lead to varnish and carbon deposits as well. With the ZDDP being reduced, supplemental AOs are more critical in modern oils and usually more than one kind is used to capitalize on the common synergistic properties they possess. The most common types are phenolics and amines.

    Rust & Corrosion Inhibitors: These additives are smaller in dosage and are designed to protect iron alloys and yellow metals from corrosion induced by oxygen, acids and water. They work by attaching to metal surfaces and therefore compete with some other additives and base oils, so balance is critical.

    Pour Point Depressants: These polymeric molecules interfere with the formation and growth of wax crystals from residual paraffins. They are generally not needed in full PAO and ester based oils since they contain no wax.

    Anti-Foams: Often silicone products, these molecules are not soluble and work by suspending tiny micron sized droplets that prevent foam from forming or help the foam break faster.

    Diluent Oil: Also called carrier oil, this component is usually mineral oil and is present at about 5-20% in the DI pack to solubilize all the additives and adjust the package to a consistent and manageable viscosity for pumping and blending.

    Finished DI packages will vary in chemistry, balance, and dosage according to what kind of oil you are making. For example heavy duty diesel DIs will have more dispersants and be used at dosages up to about 15% of the finished oil. Passenger car/light truck DIs have less ZDDP and more anti-oxidants and are generally dosed at about 8-12%.

    Viscosity Index Improvers

    Abbreviated VIIs, these are huge polymeric molecules, often with molecular weights in the millions. There purpose is to improve the viscosity index of the finished oil so that multi-grades can be made.

    All organic liquids will thin out when heated and thicken up when cooled, but they don't all do so at the same rate. Viscosity Index is simply a scale to compare the rate of viscosity change with temperature among different fluids. A fluid that thins more upon heating (and therefore thickens more upon cooling) has a lower VI than one that thins less and thickens less. Or put another way, higher VI oils change their viscosity less when the temperature changes. This can be a good property for lubricants that are used in a wide temperature range.

    The VI scale was originally established by assigning a value of "0" (zero) to the worse known base oil at the time, and "100" to the best. The theory was that all other base oils would then fall between these end points. Apparently they didn't anticipate synthetics or hydrocracked mineral oils back then.

    The way VI Improvers work is that the huge molecules tend to coil up into balls when cold, thus having little effect on the oil’s flow (viscosity). When hot, however, the molecules uncoil and stretch out, thus interfering with the flow of the oil and causing an increase in viscosity (actually a reduction in thinning, but let’s not get technical). If you put these molecules into a light 5W base oil, the low temperature viscosity is little affected, i.e. remains a 5W, but the high temperature viscosity rises, giving for example a 5W-30 multi-grade. By reducing the thinning effect of heat, the Viscosity Index of the finished oil is increased.

    VI Improvers are available an various chemistries and forms. Some are solids that need to be dissolved in the oil, but most are pre-dissolved in a carrier oil to give a thick, honey-like liquid that is easier to handle and faster to blend. Dosages are usually under 10% and vary with the VII chemistry, target oil grade, and base oil type.

    People tend to think that the less VI Improver the better, but that depends on the type of VI Improver used. Some are much more shear stable than others, and a higher quantity of a shear stable VII may be better than a lower quantity of a non-shear stable VII. In addition to permanent viscosity loss cause by breaking (shearing) the large VII molecules, they also exhibit temporary viscosity losses under high shear, and this lowers the HTHS viscosity and improves fuel economy.
    Last edited by CompSyn; 02-04-2009 at 08:13 PM.

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    Part 2 of 2

    Base Oils

    Constituting 80-90% of the finished motor oil, the base oil(s) play a very important role. The structure and stability of the base oils dictate the flow characteristics of the oil and the temperature range in which it can operate, as well as many other vital properties such as volatility, lubricity, and cleanliness. The two major categories of base oils are Mineral Oils and Synthetics.

    Mineral oils begin with crude oil, a mixture of literally hundreds of different molecules derived from the decomposition of prehistoric plant and animal life. The lighter more volatile components of crude oil are stripped away to make gasoline and other fuels, and the heaviest components are used in asphalt and tar. It’s the middle cuts that have the right thickness or viscosity for lubricants, but first they must be cleaned up; undesirable components such as waxes, unsaturated hydrocarbons, and nitrogen and sulfur compounds must be removed. Modern processing techniques do a pretty good job of removing these undesirable components, good enough for well over 90% of the world’s lubricant applications, but they cannot remove all of the bad actors. And it’s these residual “weak links” that limit the capabilities of mineral oils, usually by triggering breakdown reactions at high temperatures or freezing up when cold. These inherent weaknesses limit the temperature range in which mineral oils can be used and shorten the useful life of the finished lubricant.

    Mineral oils are further subdivided into three subgroups (Group I, Group II, Group III) that differ by the degree of processing they undergo. Higher groups have been subjected to hydrotreating or cracking to open aromatic (ringed) molecules, eliminate unstable double bonds, and remove other undesirables. This extra treating yields a water-white clear liquid with higher VIs, enhanced oxidative stability, and lower volatility.

    Group IIIs are a somewhat controversial class as they are derived from crude oil like Groups I & II, but their molecules have been so changed by severe processing that they are marketed as Synthetics. Most people now accept Group IIIs as synthetic, but the discussion remains heated among purists, and I’m going to duck by not taking a side here.

    Synthetic base oils are manufactured by man from relatively pure and simple chemical building blocks, which are then reacted together or synthesized into new, larger molecules. The resulting synthetic basestock consists only of the preselected molecules and has no undesirable weak links that inhibit performance. This ability to preselect or design specific ideal molecules tailored for a given job, and then create those molecules and only those molecules, opens a whole new world for making superior basestocks for lubricants. In fact, the entire formulation approach is different: instead of trying to clean up a naturally occurring chemical soup to acceptable levels with a constant eye on cost, the synthetic chemist is able to focus on optimum performance in a specific application with the knowledge that he can build the necessary molecules to achieve it. And since full synthetic oils are generally a company’s premier offering, their best foot forward so to speak, the additives are often better and in higher doses as performance trumps cost.

    In general, synthetic base oils offer higher oxidative and thermal stability, lower pour points, lower volatility, higher VI, higher flash points, higher lubricity, better fuel economy, and better engine cleanliness. The amount and balance of these improvements vary by synthetic type, and can be quite significant for the engine and user.

    There are many types of synthetic base oils, the most common being Polyalphaolefins (PAOs), Esters, Alkylated Naphthenes (ANs), and more recently Group IIIs. These different types of synthetic base oils are often blended together (or even with mineral oils), to give the balance of properties desired. All offer improved performance, but at a higher price, which brings up the question of value - how much performance do you need, and how much should you pay for it?

    For the average car owner, driving conditions are mild enough for conventional mineral oils to work satisfactorily, provided they are changed relatively frequently (3,000-5,000 miles). For those users with high performance engines, severe climates, hard driving, or utilizing long drain intervals, synthetics can offer good value and may even be required. And then there are those who so love their cars that nothing but the very best will do for their baby.

    So, as you can see, modern motor oils are very simple mixtures of very complex ingredients. Choosing the right components of the right chemistry in the right dosages is a real balancing act, as each of the components have their own pluses and minuses and can interact or compete with each other. Don’t try this at home - leave it to companies you trust who have the technology, R&D, and resources to achieve the necessary balance so critical to performance.
    Last edited by CompSyn; 02-04-2009 at 08:20 PM.

  7. #7
    Member Bearcat's Avatar
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    I realize this post is over a couple of years old but great information never-the-less.

    Thankyou to Compsyn for posting this.
    Last edited by Bearcat; 04-16-2011 at 06:55 PM.
    -= 2004 Machine Silver C5Z06 Vette =-

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