The American Petroleum Institute Lubricants Standards Group is debating an amendment to its Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System, also known as API 1509, which would define a base stock manufacturer. The document has no clear definition, and the addition could affect base oil interchange and viscosity grade read-across rules, said Luc Girard, president of Sanjuro Consulting.
Speaking on a panel during the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association’s virtual annual meeting Monday, Girard said the proposal is “contentious” within the API Lubricants Standards Group, which has two open ballots in front of it in an attempt to reach a consensus.
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“The fundamental question is, at what point does manufacturing begin in the realm of base stocks?” he explained.
The Base Stock Manufacturers’ Interest Group drafted the original and subsequent proposals. “The Base Stock Manufacturers were concerned that API 1509 did not properly define a base stock manufacturer given today’s realities,” Jeff Harmening, manager for API’s Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System, told Lube Report. Another goal, he said, is to align API’s definitions more closely with those of ATIEL, the Technical Association of the European Lubricants Industry.
“For those of you who rely on base oil interchange and viscosity grade read-across guidelines, there is a concept in those two parts of API 1509 that refers to a base stock slate,” Girard explained to meeting attendees.
API 1509 Annex E defines a base stock slate as “a product line of base stocks that have different viscosities but are in the same base stock grouping and from the same manufacturer.”
“Ultimately, base stocks are used to formulate products meeting API specifications,” Harmening said. “API’s Base Oil Interchangeability Guidelines define the minimum prudent physical and engine testing necessary to ensure that engine oil performance is not adversely affected by substitution of one base oil for another. Properly defining base stock manufacturer will help ensure that BOI is applied properly.”
There may be unintended consequences, however. “I’m concerned that this idea of defining a manufacturer could impact the flexibility of base stock purchasers,” said Girard.
One of the current ballots states that a company must perform some kind of chemistry that alters molecules in order to be a manufacturer, Girard reported. The current language in API 1509 is more generous: “Base stocks may be manufactured using a variety of different processes including but not limited to distillation, solvent refining, hydrogen processing, oligomerization, esterification and rerefining.”
The document also states in Annex O that “base stock blending may be part of the manufacturing process but does not alone constitute manufacturing of a base stock.”
“We do a lot of blending before we can do any selling,” said Girard. “Most of us consider ourselves manufacturers, so the issue that blending is not manufacturing is very contentious for many members.”
The two open ballots in front of the Lubes Group will close on Nov. 16. However, “There might be more fur flying around this one for another iteration,” said Girard.