HDMO Upgrade Shifts into 2017


The American Petroleum Institute confirmed last week that it expects to begin licensing PC-11 heavy-duty motor oils on March 1, 2017. Thats 14 months later than originally hoped, but not as far off-track as some participants had feared. In June, pessimists were predicting the diesel oil category upgrade might not see daylight until November 2017.

On the plus side, two critical engine tests for the proposed category got the go-ahead last week to begin matrix testing. They are the Mack T-13 test for bearing corrosion, oil oxidation and nitration, and the Caterpillar Oil Aeration Test. Various laboratories have the test stands in place and are now putting them through a structured matrix, running each test dozens of times with a hand-picked slate of reference oils to prove the tests can be counted on to discern between good oils and bad ones.

The matrix was able to get under way because another piece of the PC-11 puzzle – funding – finally came together. Kevin Ferrick, the engine oil program manager at API in Washington, D.C., said last week that a formal memorandum of agreement was signed by the key stakeholder groups: API, representing the oil industry; the American Chemistry Council, which speaks for the additive manufacturers; and EMA, the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, on behalf of the engine builders.

Together, these organizations have committed nearly $2.7 million to pay for the matrix tests. EMAs share will be in-kind contributions of engines and parts, while the others are giving cash.

Thats still not enough though to cover the entire matrix, which aims to run each new test dozens of times to generate the body of data needed for validation. So five engine test facilities (Afton Chemical, ExxonMobil, Intertek, Lubrizol and Southwest Research Institute) are donating the cost of running calibration tests on their engine stands. Valued at $2.3 million, this brings the total spending for the matrix to $5 million.

In addition to the new two tests, seven existing engine tests will be carried over from earlier diesel oil categories, bringing to nine the battery of engine tests that each PC-11 candidate formulation must pass.

Not making the PC-11 test slate: Detroit Diesels proposed DD-13 scuffing wear test, because it was not showing consistent results and field correlation. It was removed from the category this summer – but the DD-13 still could see life as part of a proprietary Detroit Diesel oil spec, sources indicated.

While individual products claiming to meet the new specification could pass all the tests and be available sooner than March 1, 2017, until the category is accepted into APIs Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System and lubricant marketers have had fair opportunity to get their candidate oils tested, no one may update the trademarked API Donut symbol on their products.

Ferrick said that API also is debating the best way to alert buyers to PC-11s unusual high-temperature/high-shear properties. Some of the new oils will meet current HTHS limits and be fully backwards compatible with todays API CJ-4 oils. Its been proposed that these could be labeled as API CK-4, although the final decision hasnt been made yet, he told Lube Report last week. That would be the next obvious progression after todays CJ-4 oils.

However, some PC-11 oils will have lower HTHS viscosity, for better fuel economy, and these products may be unsuitable for older engines. So there is a strong desire to indicate the distinct differences between these two, probably by using the Donut, Ferrick went on. To avoid misapplication, the low-HTHS oils might get their own designation in the Donut, possibly API FA-1. A decision will come later from APIs Lubricants Group.

Finally, a start-date earlier than March 1, 2017, is not wholly out of the question, APIs Ferrick remarked. The timeline now is dependent on the matrix, and if it were to go efficiently, the finish date could move to an earlier time, he said. Theres always hope we could shave some time off that March 2017 date.

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Regulations Specs & Testing    Specifications