API SN Heads for Vote (Again)


In response to fierce disapproval from the auto industry, the American Petroleum Institute has sharpened its pencil and redrawn the definitions for its proposed API SN and SN Resource Conserving passenger car engine oil categories. The toughened standard now must be balloted by the entire API Lubricants Committee, with no firm guarantee it will succeed.

The Lubricants Committee had been striving for a first-licensing date of Oct. 1, but until the ballot passes that also remains in doubt. API SN is intended to be an upgrade of the current API SM category, and licensed products meeting the spec will be able to display the API Donut trademark on their labels. The SN Resource Conserving category has additional requirements covering fuel economy improvement and vehicle emissions system protection.

As originally balloted, SN and SN Resource Conserving drew heavy fire from U.S. automakers, some of whom threatened to withdraw all support for API S-category oils if they were issued as written. Although automakers have no vote on API’s S categories, they commented that SN’s laxness on phosphorus content, turbocharger deposits and elastomer compatibility were areas of strong concern.

The revised ballot appears to address each of these issues in some way, although not across the board for all viscosity grades.

According to Kevin Ferrick, who manages the engine oil program at API in Washington, D.C., the initial Jan. 8 ballot on SN and SN Resource Conserving has been withdrawn. He expects a new ballot will be sent to Lubricants Committee members this week, after a final review.

Ferrick told Lube Report that he hopes the new ballot will be able to close in two weeks, rather than the traditional 30-day period for such ballots. The ballot will also propose that first licensing of the categories begin on Oct. 1, but there could still be objections to that, he stressed. Members will need time to look over the revisions and then decide how to vote.

There are compelling reasons why an Oct. 1 first-licensing date is advantageous for API SN. Products meeting the new ILSAC GF-5 category also will launch on that date, and the cost of converting product labels, sales material, specification sheets and websites to reflect the change will cost lubricant marketers millions of dollars. No company relishes the idea of repeating all that effort a few weeks or months later, just to reflect an SN upgrade alone.

First, however, the category must get over the hurdle of this new ballot. Just because they’ve agreed to send the ballot out, you can’t assume that the full committee will approve it, Ferrick cautioned. There could be objections from some voting members, which we’d have to resolve.

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