North American specification update - September 2016
Steve Haffner, Infineum Crankcase Market Manager, keeps us up to date on some of the North American lubricant specification developments.
PC-11 is now in its final stages of development. Base oil interchange and viscosity grade read across guidelines for the new tests are in place for Group II base stocks. Formulating with Group III base stock will be very limited with no additional base oil interchange in the Volvo T-13 and Caterpillar engine oil aeration tests.
A key step that remains is the finalisation of the individual OEM specifications. For those OEMs that require performance beyond the new API categories, validation of the products being launched is required.
Cummins, Detroit and Volvo have announced their new specifications for API CK-4 and/or API FA-4, and new OEM registration forms are being released.
Formal registrations could take some time, due to the large number of requests that are likely to follow.
Marketers are now working to get their official approvals in place and on updating their labels and marketing literature as well as trying to educate end users on the value of these oils.
Adoption of PC-11 oils
As OEMs have started sharing their oil recommendations for 2017 model year (MY) engines, many will primarily recommend API CK-4 oils which will also need to meet their own OEM specifications.
Less clear is the adoption of the new API FA-4, lower viscosity oils for fuel economy. Some OEMs may allow the use of FA-4 oils or recommend its use in some fuel economy focused applications. API user language that states FA-4 oils are not backwards compatible may slow the adoption rate for service fill applications. While some OEMs may allow limited back serviceability to encourage their use, most industry observers expect API CK-4 to be the product of choice for many years to come.
The fastest growing product is expected to be SAE 10W-30 API CK-4, which provides improved fuel economy over SAE 15W-40, while being recommended for both new and old engines.
As fleets bring in more new engines they will eventually adopt the newer SAE 10W-30 API FA-4 product, when recommended by OEMs, which will provide even larger fuel economy benefits.
Universal oils and PC-11 impact
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. Starting December 1 2016, when API CK-4 is added to the label, ILSAC viscosity grade oils claiming API CK-4/SN, will need to drop the API SN claim unless they are formulated at 800 ppm phosphorus or below.
Heavy-duty OEMs have not expressed any interest in gasoline API performance claims on heavy-duty diesel oils and some strongly prefer oils with higher phosphorus content.
It remains to be seen if the logistics benefits provided by universal oils will be enough to overcome any perceived or real debits in diesel engine protection.
These challenges are expected all along the supply chain, which may lead to some difficult and even confusing scenarios if the needs of all consumers are to be met upon initial introduction. The need for two SAE 10W-30 engine oils - with one meeting API CK-4 and replacing legacy SAE 10W-30 API CJ-4 applications and the other meeting the new lower viscosity API FA-4 category - is probably the biggest cause for concern.
We applaud the efforts being made by many marketers who are beginning to educate both consumers and distributors on the benefits and needs of the new oils. We would also like to recognise the new API marketing campaign, which promotes the use and understanding of the API CK-4 and FA-4 upgraded specifications.
ILSAC GF-6 FAU slips
The slow pace of test development and approval is now delaying the new category past the current FAU of April 1 2018. Reconciliation of the remaining activities with the timeline will be addressed by industry to minimise the delay without compromising product delivery.
Industry stakeholders have acknowledged that the FAU is unlikely to occur before 4Q/2018. This is a significant concern for some OEMs who want to use technology meeting the ILSAC GF-6 specifications for their 2019 MY engines. This is especially the case for the new ILSAC GF-6B, which formally allows SAE 0W-16 for certification.
Test development continues to be the major challenge for ILSAC GF-6.
However, significant progress has been made since the last Insight update. The new Sequence IIIH is in place and official registration is set to begin. Chrysler is reported to be working to ensure there are enough engine parts to use for the life of the category. The Sequence IIIH test is critical since it is also being considered as a replacement for the Sequence IIIF/G to allow current and older API C and S specifications to be maintained.
The new Sequence VIE test has been accepted by the Surveillance Panel. Acceptance by ASTM Class Panel and incorporation into ILSAC GF-6 is expected in September. This test is also critical to replace the Sequence VID for ILSAC oils as is the Sequence VIF for maintaining SAE 0W-16 API SN/RC licenses. The Sequence VIF test, required for ILSAC GF-6B, is still undergoing development and analysis by the Surveillance Panel.
ILSAC GF-6 contains seven new tests and work still continues on the other test developments.
Mandatory use of General Motors’ (GM) dexos1™:2015 was recently delayed from January 1 2017 to August 31 2017.
dexos1™:2015 is the most complex North American specification ever in terms of tests required, program process and investment cost. Industry has been dealing with issues with legacy tests, which are included in the specification, that will soon become unavailable. In addition, GM has temporarily suspended the new aeration test requirement as it works on improving the test and is allowing more time for all marketers to obtain the approvals. There are also many oils currently approved that need to be updated and January 1 2017 was insufficient time for this process to be completed.
Legacy test update
The API Category Life Oversight Group (CLOG) is tasked with sustaining older categories once the current legacy tests become unavailable. A plan has been developed for determining equivalency using replacement tests for the current Sequence IIIF, IIIG, VID, and VG tests when they become unavailable.
With the Sequence VID and IIIG tests soon expected to become unavailable, sustaining the ILSAC GF-5 and API SN categories is a real concern.
This concern is enhanced because the Sequence VID test is used to validate an oil for CAFE purposes, and moving to another oil test is complex.
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 these issues.