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Air Compressor Lubricants: <br/> Petroleum vs. Partial and Full Synthetics

Understanding the differences between petroleum, semi-synthetic and full synthetic lubricants can help you make the best, most cost-efficient choices for your business. While petroleum-based mineral oils may seem less expensive on the front end, in the long run, their use can cost you much more in downtime and labor associated with excessive lubricant changes and air compressor maintenance.

The Problem with Petroleum Compressor Lubricants

The biggest issue with petroleum lubricants is their natural instability due to the organic compounds that make them up. This instability leads to premature breakdown and the presence of waxes, sludge, and acids that can end up damaging machinery if frequent lubricant changes aren’t made. So, while the initial low cost of petroleum air compressor oil may be enticing, what you save on the front end you usually end up spending on the back end.

The Benefits of Semi- and Full-Synthetic Lubricants

In contrast, while partial and full synthetic lubricants may cost more, they’re engineered for high stability and usability, even in extreme conditions. That’s why they’re so resistant to breakdown and acid build-up. In general, the change interval for synthetic lubricants is several times longer than petroleum lubricants operating at identical temperatures, and switching to even a semi-synthetic blend can result in considerable savings in the long run.

When choosing between lubricants, consider that under normal operating conditions you can expect:

A petroleum-based oil to last roughly 2,000 hours.

A semi-synthetic lubricant to last at least 4,000 hours.

A full synthetic lubricant to last at least 8,000 hours.

Some full synthetic lubricants can actually last even longer than 8,000 hours and will continue to perform well upwards of 10,000 hours under normal operating conditions. Obviously, the extended life of semi- and full-synthetic lubricants can mean considerable savings in costs associated with oil purchase, labor, and disposal. If you’re operating in challenging conditions, you may need the superior engineering of a partial or full synthetic to handle the heat.

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