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Steve Haffner, Infineum Crankcase Market Manager, keeps us up to date on some of the North American lubricant specification developments.

Dec Spec Up 1PC-11 is in its final stages of deployment and several marketers have announced initial product plans. Many OEMs have issued their corresponding specifications. However, in September, Ford announced that it will not accept API CK-4 alone, recommending its own specification, as shown in the table below.

Ford also announced that API FA-4 oils should not be used in their diesel vehicles at this time. API CK-4 oils that meet the new Ford Material Engineering Specification WSS-M2C171-F1 may be used. In addition, oils labeled API CJ-4 may also continue to be used. The new Ford specification includes a minimum 0.10% phosphorus limit and additive companies/marketers must demonstrate that new technologies are suitable for their medium-duty diesel engines. This can be done via proven field performance or via a new Ford 6.7L valve train wear test that Ford expects to be available by end of 1Q 2017. The first Ford approval list will be available online in December.

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Marketers are now working to get their official OEM approvals in place, to update their labels and marketing literature and to educate end users on the value of these oils. This is proving to be quite a challenge due to complex approval procedures, along with the sheer number of approvals, just before first licensing of PC-11.

Adoption of PC-11 oils

While most OEMs are enthusiastically recommending PC-11 oils, none require the use of PC-11 for 2017 and all will continue to allow the use of API CJ-4. Some OEMs are also allowing slight increases in oil drain intervals with the new oils. Most marketers have also announced plans to transition to new PC-11 oils and, in many cases, to discontinue API CJ-4.

A real question here is whether marketers will be able to sell the value of the new oils to their customers, particularly when very few engines on the road require the higher quality products.

It has also become clear that very few engines will be allowed to make use of API FA-4 engine oils in 2017. Detroit will recommend API FA-4 oils that meet their specification and allow some back serviceability to MY 2010. However, it appears that very few fleets will be able to take advantage of the added fuel economy benefits. Reasons vary, but logistics is key as many fleets would like one oil for both old and new engines, no matter which OEM supplies them, and do not want to carry special oils for just a few engines. Demand for new engines is also down, so the new API FA-4 capable engines will be a very small percentage of the actual diesel engines in use in North America in 2017.

Many end users are also reluctant to use the new API FA-4 oils because they are unsure if the added fuel economy is worth any risk that engine durability could be compromised. This situation has arisen despite the significant field testing that has validated the ability of these oils to protect the engine at the reduced viscosity level.                          

Best compromise

SAE 10W-30 API CK-4, which provides improved fuel economy over SAE 15W-40, is perhaps the best compromise. It can be used in most old and new engines and meets the needs of most OEMs for on and off highway applications. Given that ~80% of diesel oil sold today is still SAE 15W-40, fleets can still make significant improvements in fuel economy and lower their operating costs with a switch from API CJ-4 SAE 15W-40 to API CK-4 SAE 10W-30. At the same time, the improved fuel economy will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is the primary driver of PC-11.

It is highly likely that over time end users will become more comfortable with the lower viscosity oils.

As fleets bring in more new engines, they will eventually adopt the newer SAE 10W-30 API FA-4 product, which will provide even greater fuel economy benefits. Given the age of the truck population, this transition is expected to take a long time.

Universal oils and PC-11 impact

It appears that universal oils may not be a valued feature for new PC-11 oils. Although Ford is not a Class 8 engine manufacturer, many of the Ford diesel engines in Class 4, 5, 6 and 7 require API CJ-4, which gives Ford a significant share of the market. Although no other OEM has placed a minimum limit on phosphorus, the action taken by Ford to place a minimum phosphorus requirement in its specification will likely create concerns among end users. Also, most heavy-duty diesel (HDD) engine manufacturers do not value universal oils.

As we move forward, end users will consider an HDD lubricant that is good for both old and new diesel engines to be the new definition of universal HDD engine oil.

As a reminder, rules concerning API S category claims with the new PC-11 performance categories have been set. API CK-4 or FA-4 oils with SAE 5W-30 and SAE 10W-30 viscosity grades, which correspond to ILSAC viscosity grades, will only be able to claim passenger car oil API quality levels, (such as API SN, SM or SL) if the oils satisfy the 800 ppm phosphorus maximum required for ILSAC viscosity grades.

SAE 15W-40 engine oils can still claim API CK-4/SN. After December 1 2016, when API CK-4 has been added to the label, ILSAC viscosity grade oils claiming API CK-4/SN need to drop the API SN claim unless formulated at 800 ppm phosphorus or below.

Challenges remain

PC-11 still remains a logistic challenge as distributors adopt the new oils. This is likely to be more complicated if end users continue to use API CJ-4. Although there is a need for two SAE 10W-30 grades, we believe only the API CK-4 version will be widely available in bulk and the API FA-4 version will be more of a speciality product.             

API, marketers and OEMs have made an excellent effort to educate end users and distributors. However, it is clear that it will take time for industry to convince customers about the value of PC-11.

ILSAC GF-6 FAU may slip

Test development continues to move forward slowly, but timing for ILSAC GF-6 is unclear and it appears first allowable use (FAU) could slip into 2019 if any test sees a significant delay.

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ILSAC GF-6 new test summary

An official date will not be published until all stakeholders can find an achievable date and one that should not need to be delayed further. All stakeholders are frustrated by this situation. But, it is critical that industry gets the tests right so that ILSAC GF-6 provides the performance needed. This will also avoid the need to develop ‘GF-6 plus’ type products immediately after ILSAC GF-6 launches. Infineum believes these new categories need a minimum life of four to five years to justify the significant investment all stakeholders must make.

Many OEMs are still increasing the use of lower viscosity API SN/GF-5 SAE XW-20 engine oils. However, some want to certify their engines and introduce the new SAE XW-16 engine oils, which are allowed with the introduction of ILSAC GF-6B, for lower viscosity engine oils. These oils cannot display the ILSAC starburst or similar marking until ILSAC GF-6 is introduced and until then it seems unlikely they can be used for certification or be made widely available in North America.

dexos1™:2015

No significant updates to report concerning dexos1™:2015 as mandatory use of the General Motors’ specification remains August 31 2017.

GM is approving the new oils and they should become more widely available during 2017 as industry marches towards the new mandatory date. A problem did develop with the new GM aeration test, which is currently suspended while GM and the engine test labs resolve the issues observed so it can be reinstated.

Legacy test update

With the Sequence IIIG and Sequence VID essentially unavailable in 2017, it is also absolutely critical that their replacements are available and limits set so that ILSAC GF-5 and dexos engine oils can continue to be approved.

The API Category Life Oversight Group (CLOG) continues on a plan to sustain older categories once the current legacy tests become unavailable. Plans were reviewed at API LG and AOAP/DEOAP and it was agreed to determine equivalency using replacement tests for the current Sequence IIIF, IIIG, VID, and VG tests when they become unavailable. For the Sequence IIIH, which replaces the Sequence IIIG, equivalency is being discussed based upon reference oils and some candidate data brought forward. A plan has been endorsed to develop ILSAC GF-5 equivalency limits for fuel economy by running licensed oils to generate data/limits in the new Sequence VIE test. Sequence IIIH tests are being run on the Sequence IIIF HDD reference oils to establish a correlation for the older API HDD categories.

CLOG is also drafting Provisional Licensing Guidelines for the current possible situations if more than one test is unavailable and/or the fuel economy test becomes unavailable. This will maintain the current API specifications and allow marketers to license oils against the current performance categories. CLOG recommendations will be made to the API Lubes Group, which will discuss and ultimately ballot a recommendation to change API 1509.

Industry stakeholders will need to work very hard to find acceptable solutions to these challenges. It is clear that CLOG, along with the timely approval for replacement tests, will play a key role in helping to resolve the issues.

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