Lubricating oil base stocks are produced by special refining processes to meet specific consumer requirements. Lubricating base stocks are light- to medium-coloured, low-volatile, medium- to high-viscous mixtures of paraffinic, naphthenic and aromatic oils, with boiling ranges from 371 °C to 538 °C. Additives, such as demulsifiers, anti-oxidants and viscosity improvers, are blended into the lubricating oil base stocks to provide the characteristics required for motor oils, turbine and hydraulic oils, industrial greases, lubricants, gear oils and cutting oils. The most critical quality for lubricating oil base stock is a high viscosity index, providing for less change in viscosity under varying temperatures. This characteristic may be present in the crude oil feed stock or attained through the use of viscosity index improver additives. Detergents are added to keep in suspension any sludge formed during the use of the oil.
Greases are mixtures of lubricating oils and metallic soaps, with the addition of special-purpose materials such as asbestos, graphite, molybdenum, silicones and talc to provide insulation or lubricity. Cutting and metal-process oils are lubricating oils with special additives such as chlorine, sulphur and fatty-acid additives which react under heat to provide lubrication and protection to the cutting tools. Emulsifiers and bacteria prevention agents are added to water-soluble cutting oils.
Although lubricating oils by themselves are non-irritating and have little toxicity, hazards may be presented by the additives. Users should consult supplier material safety data information to determine the hazards of specific additives, lubricants, cutting oils and greases. The primary lubricant hazard is dermatitis, which can usually be controlled by the use of personal protective equipment together with proper hygienic practices. Occasionally workers may develop a sensitivity to cutting oils or lubricants which will require reassignment to a job where contact cannot occur. There are some concerns about carcinogenic exposure to mists from naphthenic-based cutting and light spindle oils, which can be controlled by substitution, engineering controls or personal protection. The hazards of exposure to grease are similar to those of lubricating oil, with the addition of any hazards presented by the grease materials or additives. Most of these hazards are discussed elsewhere in this Encyclopaedia.