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RE: Synthetic Motor Oil

In the latest installment of the synthetic motor oil discussion, Warren
Weaver (wjw5@psu.edu) writes (in part):

	> Either buy 100%
> >synthetics or stick with your standard oil and change the oil every 3000
> >miles RELIGIOUSLY! As for me, I'll take the synthetic. In this case, man
> >made is better than nature.
While I cannot  back it up with objective laboratory or Lifecycle impact
data either, I tend to agree 100% with Warren's analysis of synthetic oils;
they reflect a what I consider a fundamental concept of design for
environment, which is the notion of "design for selectivity."  By
selectively blending crude components selected for a specific purpose, and
removing those components that are less than optimal (e.g., are thermally
labile, or more volatile than desired), you've eliminated some potential
causes of oil degradation and loss.  Hence the longer lifetimes which are a
major selling point of these oils.

I will take minor exception regarding the comment about changing oil
religously every 3,000 miles.  While I don't know of equipment that would
permit doing this on a "home mechanic" basis, the use of oil analyzers to
test oil for silicas, iron and other metals has been demonstrated to be an
effective strategy for reducing the frequency of oil changes in vehicle
fleets.  One documented example comes from "Leading the Way in Pollution
Prevention: Federal Facilities Share Successes," published in 1995 by the
Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.  Use of oil testing to
determine when engine oil needed changing resulted in a 87% reduction in new
oil consumption.  Unfortunately, the document does not indicate if the prior
maintenance regime was time-based or miles-based, but in either event the
reduction was impressive.

Scott Butner (rs_butner@pnl.gov) 
Senior Research Scientist, Environmental Technology Division
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
4000 NE 41st Street, Seattle WA   98105
(206)-528-3290 voice/(206)-528-3552 fax

P.S. -- I must admit that my own car is driven far more than 3,000 miles
between oil changes.  Despite that, the car has more than 248,000 miles and
still runs very well.