FSC 432
Petroleum Processing




Viscosity, commonly depicted by the symbol μ, is a physical property of a fluid that describes its tendency/resistance to flow. A high-viscosity fluid has a low tendency to flow, whereas low-viscosity fluids flow easily. Newton’s Law of Viscosity provides a physical definition of viscosity. Power requirement to transport (e.g., to pump) a fluid depends strongly on the fluid’s viscosity. Interestingly, the viscosity of liquid decreases with increasing temperature, while viscosity of gases increases with increasing temperature. Among petroleum products, viscosity constitutes a critically important characteristic of lubricating engine oils. Viscosity of liquids is usually measured in terms of kinematic viscosity, which is defined as the ratio of absolute (dynamic) viscosity to absolute density (ν = μ/ρ). Kinematic viscosity is expressed in units of centistokes (cSt), Saybolt Universal seconds (SUS), and Saybolt Furol seconds (SFS). Values of kinematic viscosity for pure liquid hydrocarbons are usually measured and reported at two reference temperatures, 38°C (100°F) and 99°C (210°F) in cSt. However, different reference temperatures, such as 40°C (104 °F), 50 °C (122 °F), and 60 °C(140 °F), are also used to report kinematic viscosities of petroleum fractions. The viscosity of crude oils can be measured using a standard method (ASTM D2983).

Knowledge Check

What are ASTM, ISO, IP?

Click for answer...


There are several international organizations that are known as standard organizations, and they recommend standard measuring techniques for petroleum products. These organizations include [2 in mnl]

-ASTM - American Society for Testing and Materials (http://www.astm.org(link is external) ASTM includes several committees depending on the materials; D committee is responsible for petroleum products and for this reason its test methods for petroleum materials are designated by the prefix D.

- ISO - International Organization for Standardization (http://www.iso.org)

- Energy Institute (formerly IP) (http://uk.ihs.com/collections/)

- API - American Petroleum Institute) (http://www.api.org)

- AFNOR - Association Francaise de Normalisation (http://www.afnor.org)