PQIA Piques Interest, Anxiety


Tom Glenn has launched an independent oil-quality testing program, the Petroleum Quality Institute of America, and independent blenders are abuzz.

Industry veteran Thomas F. Glenn, president of consultancy Petroleum Trends International and publisher and editor of newsletter Jobbers World, in mid-February launched the Petroleum Quality Institute of America to conduct random sampling of packaged motor oils, have the samples analyzed by an independent laboratory, and make public the test results.

PQIAs guiding principles are honesty, integrity and openness, according to the PQIA web site, www.pqiamerica.com. Our mission is to serve the consumer of lubricants by reporting on the quality and integrity of lubricants in the marketplace.

In February, PQIA posted at its web site the test results of its first 10 samples, all major oil companies passenger car engine oil brands. All the results were good, says the PQIA web site, where charts comparing the test results with acceptable ranges are posted.

Also in February, motor oil blender Warren Oil Co. signed on as PQIAs first sponsor. Warren Oil was joined earlier this month by Citgo and CAM2 as platinum level sponsors, providing the highest level of financial support for PQIA.

At last weeks Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association Management Forum in San Diego, PQIA was a hot topic of discussion, as blenders shared information and questions. PQIA will post test results for private-label engine oils in mid-April – whose oils? PQIA is funded by companies that compete against me on the basis of cost – will it be objective? Will PQIA compete with or undermine ILMAs ethics and branding programs?

PQIA has tested 10 private-label brands, Tom Glenn told Lube Report yesterday, and more than one of the 10 raised questions. We are rechecking the tests and speaking with the manufacturers, so PQIA may not post all 10 results immediately. We contact companies whenever the test results are atypical.

PQIA is currently collecting samples in the U.S. Northeast, said Glenn; five to 10 per month is the goal, and collection will expand as funding is available.

Sponsor levels range from $5,000 to $25,000, Metuchen, N.J.-based Glenn said. Sponsors are subject to a higher level of scrutiny and testing. We proactively pull sponsor samples – youll see that in the next round.

But some industry members have concerns.

Jim Taglia, president of NL Grease in Vadnais Heights, Minn., at the conclusion of an April 10 report to ILMA members about the associations product-testing program, said the association has taken no position on PQIA and has no comment on it. But in his personal opinion, he continued, If its an independent program that offers paid sponsorship, its not independent. The tests are basic and minimal, he continued, and he expressed concern that samples tested might not be representative.

We support 100 percent of the objective of improving oil quality, Anwer Hussain, senior vice president for lubricants at CHS, Inver Grove Heights, Minn., told Lube Report yesterday, sharing his companys views. But we are concerned about the sponsorships, that sponsors may have influence.

Second, many [quality] issues are related to bulk oils and multiple brands. We dont know if that will be addressed. Plus some companies are getting smart about matching elemental profiles, in essence cheating on chemical and physical tests, Hussain continued. PQIA certification could give a false impression of credibility.

American Refining Group President Harvey Golubock in Bradford, Pa., told Lube Report, I applaud anything that will upgrade oil quality. But Im concerned about the fragmentation of efforts. API and ILMA already have oil quality programs. Cooperation among programs might better serve the industry.

In response to industry concerns, Glenn emphasized that he is building a firewall between sponsors and testing. Before launching the planned PQIA certification program, Glenn said he will put in place an industry advisory committee for advice on assuring independence and objectivity and to address concerns. We would like to work collaboratively with ILMA, Glenn said. But PQIA was created to fill some gaps. The results of API and ILMA efforts are not available to consumers.

Also on PQIAs plate, said Glenn, is a look at line wash: Where does it go? And PQIA has plans for a program to raise consumer awareness of obsolete oils. Let the data speak for itself is our tagline, said Glenn. Our mission is to educate consumers. For engine oil, no one is watching.

Editors note: Industry consultant Tom Glenn is paid to write a monthly column for LubesnGreases magazine, Lube Reports sister publication. LNG Publishing Co. has no other business affiliation with him or his companies.

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