How Does a Plant Become a Motor Oil?
The era of renewables-based automotive lubricants has arrived. On November 1st, Chevron launched Havoline® PRO-RS™ Renewable Full Synthetic Motor Oil, our first product made with 25% sustainably sourced plant-based oils. Naturally, we are already hearing the question, “How did you do that?” Just how does plant matter turn into a high-performance motor oil?
It starts with the sun. Plants absorb photons from the sun, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and other nutrients from the soil. These in turn form triglycerides that are stored in the plant’s seeds and pulp which can be refined into oil. This in itself is not a new concept – that is how cooking oils are made, for example. What’s novel about this plant-derived oil is its exceptional purity and uniformity of molecular structure. These attributes bring important benefits such as lower volatility and friction which makes it perfect for formulating next-generation synthetic engine oils like Havoline PRO-RS.
Once the plant-based feedstock is produced, the plant-derived base oil undergoes Chevron’s proprietary process known as ECOSTRENGTH™ Technology, which, in part, removes wax and undesirable impurities from the fluid and helps create a uniform molecular structure – effectively turning the raw material into a premium-quality lubricant.
Havoline PRO-RS is the first oil produced using Chevron’s ECOSTRENGTH Technology, which combines a renewable plant-based feedstock with a traditional synthetic base oil and an additive package to produce a lubricant with all the performance attributes of a premium full synthetic. Our plant-based feedstock typically does not have any of the impurities found in traditional base oils derived from crude petroleum and its raw material is a renewable resource. With the plant-based oil comprising 25% of the finished lubricant, Havoline PRO-RS meets the criteria to be named a USDA Certified Biobased Product.
Understanding how we arrived at that designation, the next question we hear is, “Does it perform as well as a traditionally produced full synthetic?” The answer: yes, it performs just as well, and in some cases, better. It delivers the cleaning power, wear protection and temperature stability that you expect from a synthetic motor oil. It also exhibits excellent “fuel economy retention,” meaning that the fuel economy benefit from the fresh oil is maintained for longer than typical full synthetic or conventional engine oils which may degrade more quickly and force the engine to work harder as the oil ages in service.
The successful application of sustainably sourced, renewable raw materials in a passenger car motor oil is a huge step toward a lower-carbon future. And it addresses the growing consumer demand for products with less environmental impact. A product like Havoline PRO-RS shows us just how far the science of refining oil from plants has progressed, and gives us a vivid preview of the possibilities as the technology continues to evolve.