ILSAC GF-6 Could Face More Delays

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A proposed engine test that is key to the ILSAC GF-6 engine oil specification is failing to discriminate between reference oils, an API official reported last week.

The report on the Sequence IVB test could mean further delays for the long-awaited next generation of passenger car engine oils, which already is not expected to come to market until early 2020.

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The Sequence IVB test for valve train wear is one of seven new engine tests included in GF-6 and the only one that has not yet been approved. Only after its approval can industry groups negotiate the final specification and develop a timeline to estimate when lubricant marketers can begin selling oils labeled as complying with the new specification.

The Sequence IV Surveillance Team – an ASTM panel that reports to API – has been conducting the precision matrix testing to gauge the test’s repeatability and reproducibility along with its ability to discriminate, meaning that oils providing the required performance pass the test and that those that do not fail.

After industry meetings in December, many industry insiders thought that the IVB test would be balloted and approved at a series of meetings held in San Antonio last week by API’s Lubricants Group and the Auto Oil Advisory Panel (a joint committee of the International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee and the American Petroleum Institute). Once approved, API’s Base Oil Interchange/Viscosity Grade Read across Guidelines Task Force could then complete its BOI/VGRA test matrix.

It turned out the Sequence IVB was not ready. Intertek’s Bill Buscher reported that the IVB development team completed the matrix but that the test is not ready for approval. Industry sources indicate that the test does not sufficiently discriminate between passing and failing oils. All of the reference oils passed all or most of the time at the limit proposed for ILSAC GF-6.

The surveillance team will now work with industry to try and formulate an oil that does fail the test in order to demonstrate the tests ability to discriminate. This could further delay GF-6s timeline by several months. The surveillance panel will meet later this month to advise when the precision matrix might be completed.

It had been anticipated that first licensing of GF-6 could be scheduled for the end of the first quarter of 2020 if matrix test results had been good enough for the Sequence IVB to be balloted last week, but an official schedule cannot be advanced until this test is complete because that step is required before BOI/VGRA work begins. Additive companies also need to evaluate their technologies, considering the proposed pass-fail limit for the test appears to be very stringent.

When work on GF-6 began in 2012, API aimed for first licensing to begin in 2016, but the timeline has run into numerous delays, mostly because of engine tests taking longer than expected to develop. Given all the past delays, individuals working on the specification are reluctant to predict a definitive schedule until issues around the Sequence IVB are resolved.

Last week’s meetings, held in San Antonio Feb. 7 and 8, did show progress on other fronts. The BOI/VGRA Task Force is making progress with its work on other tests and expects to finish guidelines for them by the end of June.

The most noteworthy concerns the new LSPI-Sequence IX test. This test is also part of API SN Plus and helps to solidify May 1, 2018 as the first allowable use date for this interim specification. The BOI/VGRA matrix has been completed, and preliminary data shows that additives affect oil performance much more than base stock selection or other factors. This should allow for generous base oil interchange and the deployment of the new category in the base stocks that oil marketers need covered.

BOI/VGRA work on the new Sequence VIE and VIF fuel economy tests are under way and should be completed in the second quarter. This is critical to allow industry to fully replace the Sequence VID test in order to lift provisional licensing now in place for ILSAC GF-5. The Sequence VID has been unavailable since the first quarter of 2017, which has impacted both ILSAC GF-5 and GM’s Dexos1 Generation 2 specification.

Committees also heard that the Sequence IIIG and VG tests for oil thickening and deposits and for sludge and varnish, respectively, only have about 25 starts remaining before those tests reach the end of their lives. It appears that the new Sequence IIIH and Sequence VH tests will be fully in place before this happens with equivalent limits in place for older categories, which were developed by the API’s Category Life Oversight Group and have been or will be approved by API’s Lubricants Group.