Global Test Development Group Proposed


An ExxonMobil official called recently for creation of a global engine test development group dedicated to writing test procedures for engine oil specifications around the world.

The energy giant said it would also support higher licensing licensing fees as a way to provide more resources for test development, the latest in a steady flow of organizations urging changes in the writing of engine oil specs.

As an industry we need to work together to find a better way to develop engine tests in a more timely fashion so that they are available for the latest automotive specifications, Nick Hilder, of ExxonMobil Research & Engineering, said Feb. 23 at the ICIS World Base Oils & Lubricants Conference.

Test development has become more and more challenging in recent years as engine designs advanced and lubricant performance requirements rose. Delays in tests lead to delays in adoption of new specifications, spurring a steady flow of calls for changes to the system.

Hilder, who is lubricants development manager for ExxonMobil Research & Engineering, pointed to one of the more egregious cases – ILSAC GF-6. The International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee began working on the passenger car motor oil upgrade in 2011 with a goal of introducing it to market by 2015. After numerous delays, the work continues and observers say it is likely to come to market in 2020.

Delays like this are a serious problem, Hilder said. Undoubtedly the OEMS are concerned about the risk of increased of warranty exposure when they dont have the optimal engine oil technology being marketed for these new engines.

Hilder emphasized that ExxonMobil does not want to completely remake the system.

Im not criticizing anybody, because theres been a tremendous amount of effort put into this – great people working on these test developments – but unfortunately its just taken too long, he said.

According to Hilder, one of the problems with the current system is a lack of consistency in the approach to developing tests. Some test development teams do significant research and work before they start developing a procedure, while others do not, he said. Other times groups will persist in developing a procedure around a particular engine even in the face of early signs that the engine is ill-suited to test for the performance parameter in question.

ExxonMobil believes the solution is to designate a team that would specialize as developers of tests for specification writers around the world. By focusing on that activity, Hilder contended, they could become more adept at incorporating sound and effective practices.

Ideally you would have a single, global test development group, he said, adding that such a team could develop tests before they are needed. All they would do is develop engine tests. These tests could then be put on a shelf until they are needed and could be used for whichever regional specification was appropriate. In the next breath, he acknowledged that the proposal is radical. It may be a step too far, he said. But I would like to see it piloted in some region.

Such a group could also develop procedures to replace existing tests that become obsolete when the industry runs out of test stands.

Hilder estimated that such a group, working continually with three engine tests stands and with support from automakers, could churn out three tests every two years at a cost of $4 million to $6 million. He speculated that the industry spends more than that under the current system, and he added that it would be easier to budget for ongoing development work undertaken by a single dedicated entity.

But even if it cost more to manage a more organized system, ExxonMobil would welcome it and be willing to pay more for it. ExxonMobil is prepared to pay more in license fees, he said.

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