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The French company Motul makes engine oil from …

Coconuts

Anton Utkin

Motul brand has been known since 1853 - then it belonged to the American oil corporation Svan Finch, which produced oils for steam locomotives and steamboats. At the peak of the automobile boom, in 1932, the Americans began exporting oils to Europe, and in 1953 they opened a factory in France. In 1969, Motul became a fully French company headquartered in Aubervilliers, near Paris.

In her business, she was always ahead of her rivals. So, semi-synthetic oil appeared in its program back in 1966, and five years later the first in the world 100 percent “synthetics”, besides containing no petroleum products, also became Motul. Where else but here in Aubervilliers, I can finally find out everything that interests our readers about oils? My interlocutor was one of the creators of the "secret formulas", the head of the development department of "Motul" Francois Dol.

So, the most important area of ​​research of serious oilmen is the basic components, that is, the basics. In principle, high-performance oil can also be obtained from a cheap “spindle”, filling it with horse doses of thickeners and additives. But those who do not value the brand do so: after all, having cooked a dozen or two hours in a hot motor, such a surrogate will lose its original properties. And vice versa, if the viscosity properties and thermal stability of the oil are already set by its base, the creators of which have not stinted either good raw materials or research, a product of stable quality that glorifies the good name of the company is obtained.

The most common mineral bases obtained by direct distillation of oil - these prevail in the programs of large manufacturers. Motul is traditionally focused on elite oils, this company is small and earns, rather, not by volumes, but by the mind, producing only about 50 thousand tons of oils per year, of which “mineral water” is not more than 35%.

Hydrocracking base (it is twice as expensive as mineral) is obtained by high-temperature decomposition of heavy oil fractions in the presence of hydrogen. According to its viscosity properties, the oil on this base is not much ahead of the usual “mineral water”, which does not prevent some firms (but not Motyl!) From calling cracking synthesis and writing the word “Synthese” on labels.

The next step is already full-fledged “synthetics” based on low molecular weight polyisobutylene (the cost is 2.5 times higher than that of the mineral base) and polyalphaolefins (4.5 times) obtained by polymerization of petroleum gases - butylene and ethylene. Most synthetic oils manufactured in the world are made on a poly-alpha-olefin basis - unlike mineral, it does not lose fluidity up to -60 ° C and is much more stable during prolonged exposure to high temperatures, that is, it oxidizes and evaporates significantly less. However, Motul, unlike large manufacturers, uses polyalphaolefins only for mid-range oils, such as the 6100 and 4100 series, and for top grades such as 8100 and 300V, it has something better in store - esters.

This is the highest, to date, stage of development of "oil" science. Esters in the West are called esters - products of the neutralization of carboxylic acids with alcohols. Compared to polyalphaolefins, which are simple hydrocarbon chains, ether molecules (see formula) are polar - the electron density is shifted to the oxygen atom of the carbonyl group. Hence, the most important advantage of ester-based oils: a negatively ionized oxygen atom will certainly attract to the metal surface of lubricated parts, since the crystal lattice of any metal (or alloy) consists only of positively ionized and neutral atoms. Thus, the details of the units in which the ether "synthetics" operate are always coated with a durable film of lubricant. This is very important - because according to the research results, up to 80% of engine wear occurs in the first seconds of operation, when there is still not enough oil. Moreover, in Europe, the motor has to be loaded immediately after start-up - even short-term heating on the spot is prohibited.

The cost of an ether base is 5–10 times higher than that of a mineral base, because its production includes several stages. The raw material is usually coconut copra or rapeseed. The oil extracted from them is hydrolyzed, separating glycerin and obtaining the desired carboxylic acids. The final step is esterification, that is, the interaction of acid with alcohol. Of course, not a tart one, in which there are only two carbon atoms, but heavier, where there are from 4 to 22, because the larger the R1 radical in the ether molecule, the higher its viscosity. By the way, this is the second main advantage of esters over polyalphaolefins: here you can easily change the viscosity of the final product using one or another alcohol. You can additionally vary the properties of the oil by changing the acid radical R, which further increases the cost, because then you have to synthesize carboxylic acids. Therefore, they often use vegetable ones, the benefit of coconut palms on the Earth is enough for motor oils and for bounty bars …

The ability to change the viscosity-temperature properties of esters allows Motyul to be the No. 1 supplier of sports teams in auto and, especially motor racing, for decades. Imagine - the oil is tuned to a specific engine, track, pilot in the same way as, say, a suspension or transmission. Working as a team, be it Grand Prix, rally or cross race, Motul chemists calculate and select the required properties of oils, tracking every second of the lap time!

With certain combinations of radicals, environmentally friendly biodegradable esters are obtained: they are already 15 times more expensive than mineral water. The oil made on their basis, once in the soil, is decomposed by bacteria by 85% in 21 days, although 66% decay is enough to obtain an environmental certificate. Obviously, these are the future, but so far the nature-friendly creations of Motul are intended mainly for two-stroke engines of lawn mowers, chainsaws, snowmobiles, jet skis and scooters.

Motul's parent company (there are also branches in Spain and the USA) is a small plant in the town of Vaire-sur-Marne east of Paris. The equipment is the most modern, the workers are the minimum. Cheaper oils are mixed continuously - the computer doses, at which only two people. Four others make luxury oils - by hand. The bottling is fully automated, and the robot applies a batch number to each can - forging it outside the factory is more expensive than buying an authentic Motul in a store.

Oils of each grade are made little by little, therefore, when switching from one to another, it is necessary to clean the pipes from the inside with special wads (see. Fig.), Driving them off with compressed air. Here is such accuracy. And quality control is at all stages. The components are examined before mixing, then samples of the finished mixture are taken, then from the first cans of the batch and, finally, from the last … Dozens of oil parameters can be tested in the factory laboratory. And motor tests at automobile and motorcycle factories are ongoing - to cooperate with Motul is not only profitable, but also prestigious.

Soft polyurethane four-sleeve wad for cleaning pipelines from the inside.

About varieties of Motul oils for automobiles and their retail prices.

The most affordable are the 2000 mineral series with a viscosity of 15W40 and 20W50 - about $ 4.5 per liter.

Series 4000 (mineral water with a viscosity of 10W30 and 15W40) is slightly more expensive - $ 5.3 / l, but these oils are certified for most modern engines.

Series 4100 - "semi-synthetic" based on polyalphaolefins with the addition of a mineral base. Its average price with a viscosity of 10W40 is $ 5.8 / L, and 15W50 is $ 6.2 / L. Approved for motors of the latest developments.

Oil 6100 with a viscosity of 5W40 costs about $ 10 per liter and is similar to the top grades of other reputable companies. This is a 100% “synthetic” based on polyalphaolefins with a small addition of esters. Suitable for any car and any climate.

Oil 8100 viscosity 0W40 - "synthetics" based on esters with a small addition of polymers. Analogs of the same composition from other manufacturers are still unknown. Designed for reliable lubrication of engine parts from the first revolutions after start-up - even in arctic conditions. The price is about $ 11 per liter.