Tag Archives: Features

A Brief History of Oil in America, Part 1

Oils and lubricants have played a major role throughout the history of the United States, from powering our industry to fueling our vehicles and everything in between.

Even before the colonists arrived, Native Americans had used crude oil for various purposes.  Some used it for waterproofing and building and most believed it had medicinal properties.  The Seneca tribe were particularly interested in the material, obtaining it from seeps in what is now upstate New York and trading it.  Crude oil even came to be known as “Seneca Oil.”

“We were a horse and carriage society. We were pulling everything with horse and carts.  They were using animal fats and oil,” Rick Palmore, Strategic Consultant for PetroChoice, said.  A lot of what they used came from whale fat.  They were hunted almost to extinction.”

Up until about the 1850’s, demand for crude oil was relatively low.  Most oil used for illumination or lubrication was derived from animal (often whale) fat.  That changed once kerosene lamps became popular.  In 1851, Samuel Kier created a process to distill crude oil into what he called “carbon oil” and began marketing it as fuel for lamps.

Related: Learn More About the Origins of PetroChoice

Many experts say the oil industry as we know it began in 1859 when Edwin Drake successfully struck oil near Titusville, Pennsylvania.  His well was the first drilled specifically with the intent of finding crude oil.  By 1861, the United States was producing 2.1 million barrels per year.

Drilling expanded to other areas of the country as oil, and oil marketers, became a part of the fabric of American society.  No one was more synonymous with this booming industry than John D. Rockefeller, founder and chairman of Standard Oil Company.

Through relentless acquisitions and transportation deals with logistics companies, Standard Oil was able to control 90 percent of the nation’s refining capacity by 1878.  While many of their tactics were questionable, Standard Oil was also ahead of its time.  In pre-automobile America, many companies dumped and discarded gasoline while Standard was using it to fuel machines.  They managed to take waste products from the refining process and create things like synthetic beeswax.

In 1890, congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act, which targeted monopolies and attempted to prevent unfair trading practices.  In 1911 Standard Oil was declared a monopoly in violation of the act and broken into 34 independent companies.  Many of these companies continue to exist at the forefront of the oil and lubrication industry today.

Rockefeller’s company may have been no more, but he had left his mark on an industry that was now firmly entrenched in American society.  The burgeoning auto industry, rapid industrialization and increasing government interest was about to make oil take off.

“There are three defining factors that have changed the history of motor oil,” Palmore said.  “Number one is the scale of the job, the second is efficiency, getting the amount of power and getting what you need out of equipment.  The third has been the government.”

Continue to Part 2

Testing, Awareness Vital in Avoiding Coolant Problems

Avoiding common mistakes and regular testing can extend the life of coolants and keep engines running longer and stronger.

Heating systems, cooling towers, on-highway vehicles, off-highway vehicles and most other systems use some form of antifreeze.  Despite its name, antifreeze serves as a coolant in these applications as well as a freeze preventative.

All commercial antifreezes contain either ethylene glycol or propylene glycol bases, along with an inhibitor.  The glycol makes up 95 percent of the base with the inhibitors and water making up the rest.  Both its coolant and freeze preventative properties are the result of the mix of glycol and water, which effectively lowers the freeze point and increases the boiling point of water.

In general, higher operating temperatures mean higher potential for damage.  Today’s engines run hotter than ever before.  The average diesel engine operated at about 160 degrees Fahrenheit 50 years ago.  Today, an average diesel engine can run between 230 and 250 degrees.  This makes maintenance and testing critical.

Related: Learn More About PetroChoice’s Coolant products

A mistake users often make is not paying attention to the glycol concentration.  This is usually the result of not topping off or changing coolant fluid correctly and can cause serious damage to engine components.

“Low concentration on fully formulated coolant can cause excessive corrosion to steel and aluminum components,” Greg Wyatt, Commercial Vehicle Manager for PetroChoice and Certified Lubrication Specialist, said.  “On diesels where Supplemental Coolant Additives (SCA’s) are important on fully formulated coolants, low concentration can cause liner pitting, and if left untreated, can pit through the liner causing engine failure.”

Wyatt said glycol concentration can be adjusted, but proper testing is necessary to determine whether it is better to start from scratch.

“Glycol concentration can be adjusted up or down by draining coolant and adding de-ionized water to heavy glycol concentration, or adding new coolant to low glycol concentrations,” Wyatt said.  “Laboratory coolant testing should be performed to determine if existing coolant is worth trying to save or if a complete drain, flush, and refill would be the best course of action.”

Maintaining appropriate inhibitor levels is also an important part of maintenance.  Not caring for equipment or coolants properly can lead to elevation or degradation of SCA levels.

“Overdosing conditions occurs if SCA’s are added without proper testing either by glycol test strips or laboratory testing. Typically overdosing is caused by changing pre-charging coolant filters too often or by adding liquid SCA’s when it is not needed. Overdosing can lead to additive drop out, and the additives will develop into a thick sludge that cannot be dissolved and leads to clogging of radiator cores, oil cooler tubes and engine overheating” Wyatt said.  “Under-dosing occurs when the additives become naturally depleted through use, and leads to corrosion, pitting and rust.”

Related: The Importance of Lubricant Analysis

One of the more common reasons for SCA level degradation is using an incorrect coolant.  Wyatt advises that all operators consult their manufacturer’s guide before choosing a coolant.  Inhibitors can also be diluted out by mixing different coolants together.  This can be corrected, but Wyatt again stressed the importance of proper testing.

“Nitrites and Molybdates are the most common to drop out,” Wyatt said.  “This can be corrected, but laboratory testing must be done to determine corrective procedure to bring back to optimum coolant efficiency.”