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How to choose the right type of compressor oil

Choosing the right type of oil will ensure the best possible efficiency and operational safety of your compressors. Read the article to learn more.

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Different providers often position themselves with just ONE lubricant for multi-purpose applications (piston compressors, screw compressors, vacuum pumps). However, different machines have different requirements, ONE universal and alternative oil cannot achieve the highest performance of the specific compressor. Therefore, it is very critical to choose the right type of oil in order to ensure the best possible efficiency and operational safety of your compressed air system.

And it is recommended to follow the manufacturers’ guideline to choose your compressor oil. Not only will it work best for your compressor, but it will also ensure that your warranty is not voided. As manufacture like Atlas Copco, we always make sure to take different operating conditions and machine set-ups into account in the lubricant design process. 

Compressor oil is influenced by environment

One of the most important factors in any maintenance schedule is recognition that extending oil lifespan beyond specified oil drain intervals risks the problems associated with oil ageing as a result of temperature, humidity and dusty environments, especially the working condition in the desert and coastal countries in the Middle East region.

Temperature is the first, and utmost important parameter to take into account in the oil selection process. When it comes to hot temperatures, this is the most important factor influencing the oil oxidation and so impacting the oil life. At higher temperatures, the speed where the oil reacts with oxygen, and so the overall oxidation process, goes up. This results in faster acid formation, leading to increased viscosity and in the end deposit and sludge formation. 

Humidity, being a second parameter, is influenced by rain and other weather influences. You can use the following geographical indications for guidance:

  • Not humid: locations that are not humid most of the year
  • Humid: locations that are humid most of the year (e.g. the coastal countries in Middle East)
  • Tropical and mega thermal climates
  • Tropical rainforest climates (e.g. Northwest Pacific, Central America, Malaysia)
  • Tropical monsoon climate (e.g. Jakarta, Miami, South America)

Dust is the third important parameter to look at. Following rules can be followed as a guidance but it is important to look at the physical environment to get an idea on the overall air quality of the intake air:

  • High dust levels: mining and cement, metal, steel manufacturing and foundries or in desert countries in the Middle East region.
  • Normal dust levels: food and beverage, automotive, electronics, petrochemical, gas purification, etc.

Choose genuine oil for your Atlas Copco compressor

Atlas Copco oil are customized for your Atlas Copco compressors and a unique blend of chemical properties, engineered for optimal performance in their dedicated functions. These carefully selected additives interact in the right proportion to obtain optimal overall performance from your compressor. In the portfolio, with both mineral as well as synthetic oils, we have an oil matching each machine and operations requirements. 

Effective lubrication is vital to keep your compressors performing reliably and consequently vital for your production processes. However, oil is continuously submitted to extreme conditions that hold a real risk of compromising the smooth running of your compressor, and an equally danger of a breakdown. Not all lubricants meet these challenges.


Base oil types

Although both mineral and synthetic oils can used in compressors, they each have their own characteristics. Depending on the operation conditions of your compressor you can make the right choice.

Where mineral oils adhere better to metal surfaces, synthetic oils perform better in terms of temperature stability and water management. In general, synthetic base oil is preferred when following properties are important for you:

  • Long lifetime because of a more robust formulation and less room for reactions from external components.
  • Low oil carryover and low oil consumption because of less volatile components present.
  • Better lubrication at higher and lower temperatures to guarantee reliability of rotating parts in all conditions.
  • Lower pour point and less risk for startup problems in cold conditions because of less heavy fractions present.

Additive package

Additives are key in achieving the highest performance and reliability of our lubricants, therefor these are a crucial part in the Atlas Copco oil formulations.

Some additives highlighted:

Anti-oxidants: When exposed to oxygen, high temperatures, water or dust, the oil will oxidize, creating oxidation products, acids and deposits that will decrease the oil life and may cause damage and undermine the compressor’s performance.

  • Slows the lubricant’s reaction with oxygen
  • Improves oxidation resistance at higher operating temperatures


  • Extends lubricant lifetime
  • Prevents deposits like varnish or sludge
  • Prevents acid formation and metal corrosion
  • Prevents clogging of filters, blocking of valves, failure on bearings and gears
  • Prevents unexpected breakdowns; ensures reliability

Water separability improvers: Depending on the relative humidity of the ambient air transit of many liters of water vapor occurs during the compressor’s operation. This increases the rate of oxidation and reduces the oil’s lubrication properties.

  • Improves the water separability
  • Enhances the lubricant’s phase separation


  • Protects the system from water and oil emulsions
  • Maintains the lubricant’s original properties
  • Prevents oxidation
  • Lowers condensate concentration
  • Enhanced intervals of the oil condensate treatment system

All additives have its specific properties and function, and all those additives have an influence on each other, they react with each other.  For this reason, the balance of formulating a compressor oil is crucial.

What about generic lubricants?

Non-genuine lubricant developers mainly focus on a certain characteristic of the oil, while neglecting the impact a certain additive can have on the others. It is all about balance! Only with the Atlas Copco developed lubricants our customer has the guarantee it is designed for his machine, for his working conditions, for his requirements.

In conclusion, choosing the right type of compressor oil result in a longer operating life for your compressor while extending the time between service demands. More time between service demands means more money saving from your operation cost. If you’d like to learn more about Atlas Copco’s full line of compressor oil and need our expert’s guidance to choose the oil fitting your compressor, contact us today.

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