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Petroleum waxes are produced from the process of refining lubricating oil. During this process, separation of waxy oily fractions are obtained through a de-waxing process. This can be either mechanically or chemically done. As the wax is extracted from this first level process, the mass is known as slack wax. Further refining is required to de-oil the slack wax resulting in fully refined paraffin waxes and microcrystalline waxes.
Some of the petroleum waxes are ( in order of refining ):
- PARAFFIN WAX - this is used to describe refined wax derived from petroleum. Considered to be colorless or white, the crystals are larger and well formed.
- SLACK WAX - This is the raw wax or sometimes semi refined. This wax has the most oil content usually greater than 3% by volume.
- SCALE WAX - This is refined slack, or "de-oiled". Usually whats left after processing slack to obtain the oil.
- SEMI REFINED - The oil content for semi refined is less than one and a half percent. Oilier than fully refined, they still can have good clear color and no odor.
- FULLY REFINED - These waxes usually have less then half of a percent oil. These types can be food grade, good clear color, and no smell. The viscosity of these waxes is very low in molten state.
- MICROCRYSTALLINE WAX - Higher melt waxes with small irregular crystals. They also have longer iso chains which helps in its use to clean up the appearance of paraffin waxes. Viscocity is usually an important technical spec for micros. They tend to run higher than paraffin waxes in the molten state. Viscosity should be 11 or higher.
Some vegetable waxes are derived from Soya or Palm and are refined by extracting their oil and processing them through hydrogenation. These are not really waxes but fats, but are referred to in the industry as wax. Vegetable waxes are used as a cheaper source of wax. While in some cases cannot be a one to one replacement for paraffin, can be used as a blend with paraffin to lessen production costs.
Some of these waxes include:
- SOY WAX - Not really a wax, but hydrogenated soybean oil (fat). Its much softer than paraffin waxes and needs additives to be a good paraffin replacement.
- PALM WAX - Also not a wax but also a hydrogenated fat from palm oil. We have formulations of palm that are used in pillar, mold and extrusion candles. Palm has been used widely in soap, floor polish, food additives and many other uses. We have made blends with palm wax and synthetic waxes with great success.
- CARNAUBA WAX - This is the wax taken from the leaves of a brazilian palm tree.
Synthetic waxes on the other hand can be used as a one to one replacement for petroleum waxes. They can be used to modify and improve performance of petroleum waxes, as straight replacement of petroleum waxes or in special blends of both synthetic wax and petroleum wax. Synthetic waxes are derived from multiple sources. The first well known synthetics are by-products of the production of synthetic resins, such as polyethylene. While not new, but making a huge presence as the petroleum replacement, are synthetic waxes that are derived from the Fischer Tropche process. These waxes are produced from natural gas with no smell, pure white color, and burn cleanly. There is no oil in this type of synthetic. However, from its process, there are a small percentage of fractions with lower melts that dont solidify. These cannot be 100% removed and have the appearance of oil and therefore our synthetic wax have an officially rated oil content of less than three quarters of a percent.
Some of these waxes include:
- POLYETHYLENE WAX - Wax derived by cracking polyethylene.
- ALPHA OLEFINS - Derived from ethylene. They are usually very hard.
- GTL/FISCHER-TROPSCH (gas to liquid ) synthetic wax (ex: Shell Waxes ) - derived from carbon monoxide when burning natural gas in high pressure to obtain hydrocarbon chains.