A Brighter Future for Spec Development

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JERSEY CITY, New Jersey – An industry group organized by the American Petroleum Institute is making headway on recommendations to improve the engine oil specification development process, APIs Kevin Ferrick told Lube Report.

A proposal should be ready by the second quarter of next year, he said.

A panel discussion during the ICIS Pan American Base Oils and Lubricants Conference held here last week gave a glimpse into the work of the Lubricants Standards Development Review Group, which aims to ease the industrys suffering.

With APIs CK-4 and FA-4 heavy-duty engine oil specifications out of the way and the next passenger car spec, ILSAC GF-6, nearly finished, its time to refocus on a strategic rather than tactical approach to specification development, Ferrick stated during the discussion. He is manager of APIs Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System.

LSDRG members (including the International Lubricants Standardization and Advisory Committee, the Engine Manufacturers Association, the American Chemistry Council, API engine oil marketers and base oil manufacturers) have been meeting monthly for about a year. According to Ferrick, the groups goals are to benefit consumers, enable time-efficient development cycles, promote cost-efficient testing, develop field-relevant tests and enable innovation within the industry.

The group also wants to increase benefits to stakeholders through reliability, engine protection, reduced emissions, improved sustainability and greater predictability of standards introduction.

The current approach to specification development no longer provides acceptable support for the lubricants industry, a fact brought into sharp focus by the four-year delay of ILSAC GF-6. Category development delays can have costly repercussions, Ferrick reminded attendees.

API SN Plus, a stop-gap standard developed to address urgent field problems with low-speed pre-ignition, required oil marketers to reformulate their products in advance – and likely not to the full specifications – of GF-6. If GF-6 had been on time, there would have been no need for SN Plus, he admitted.

However, the interim standard also demonstrated that when all stakeholders pull together as a team, we can act quickly and get something in place, observed Angela Willis of General Motors, who is also chairman of ASTM Internationals Passenger Car Engine Oil Classification Panel.

Stakeholders are concerned about the value delivered by new categories as category development has become increasingly challenging and costly, Ferrick reported. Backwards compatibility is becoming more complex, and delays are endangering the availability of hardware for engine tests.

The current process provides limited opportunity to anticipate the lubrication needs of future engine technology, instead focusing on immediate and past needs, he pointed out. An evergreen test development process would allow increased planning and timely introduction of new categories.

In the past, an ad hoc test development process worked because test requirements were less complicated than they are today, said Joan Evans of Infineum. She reported that EMA expressed concern that fewer original equipment manufacturers were willing to participate in test development after API CK-4 was introduced.

LSDRG recognizes the need for a planning process that would start five to seven years before a new specification might be needed. You have to manage it like you would any other company project, and we need annual input to keep it going, said Evans. Willis noted that the group is working to build more discipline into the up-front process of test development.

Test development and funding needs to be a shared endeavor among all stakeholder groups, Willis continued. These days, it’s usually a select one or two automakers, which becomes a drain after a while on resources, expertise and budget – let alone parts banking strategy to support the category.

Some engine manufacturers have asked for help developing and funding tests, said Ferrick. One approach may be to use funds from API engine oil licensing programs. Oil marketers find the idea acceptable, he reported, as API already provides funding for some portions of development such as precision test matrixes.

In the meantime, ILSAC GF-6 is still two years away with anticipated first allowable use in 2020, and the panelists did not seem optimistic about meeting original equipment manufacturers requested deadline of April that year. It’s difficult to develop chemistry until the test is complete and you know what you’re testing for, explained Evans.

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Regulations, Specs & Testing    Specifications