Optimizing the New Oil Development Process


The processes and committees used to develop engine oil specifications are complex, slow and unbalanced, Lubrizol senior vice president and president of Lubrizol Additives Dan Sheets said in a presentation at the Detroit Advisory Panels 39th Biennial Automotive/Petroleum Industry Forum on April 19.

In addition, costs to develop new categories are prohibitive and the result is a minimum lubricant quality level, Sheets said during his presentation, Unlocking Industry Innovation: Time to Change the Model?

He commented that advertising rulings have prevented products from being sold on performance and differentiation. He said that consumers and society deserve better than minimum and that the industry must take action to speed up the process, add flexibility and, most importantly, unlock innovation.

The current process involves a large number of industry organizations, including, among others, American Petroleum Institute, ASTM, ILSAC and the American Chemistry Council. The process involves identifying the need for a new oil as well as how to define the measurements which will characterize the new oil category. Tests and limits need to be developed, and all members of the greater industry are required to review and approve any changes before a new category can be introduced.

The result of this process is that timing is extremely long – four to five years in process is not unusual -and the costs to implement the changes can be staggering. The just-completed PC-11 program to upgrade heavy-duty engine oils was a four-year program that some estimate cost the industry nearly $400 million. Sheets indicated that Lubrizols own cost for the new category and additives to support was $150 million.

Sheets comments were in some ways similar to that of an official from one of Lubrizols competitors, Infineum, which recently called for a time out in industry new product category specifications development. Chris Locke, executive vice president of marketing and technology, presented that view at the ICIS Conference held in London in February.

Noting that lubricant specifications impact original equipment manufacturers, oil marketers, the additive industry and base oil suppliers, Locke emphasized the need to minimize waste and duplication to gain real customer value. The essence of Infineums proposal is that the oil industry needs a simple, efficient and effective process for developing industry specification lubricants.

Doug Anderson, who manages petroleum additive issues at ACC, noted that, to date, neither Lubrizol nor Infineum has approached the Product Approval Protocol Task Group about the issues they have raised. However, he indicated that when the topic is reviewed, PAPTG will forward their comments to API for their consideration.

According to Kevin Ferrick, engine oil manager, API has reviewed the processes used to develop engine oil standards, and we will likely do the same now that CK-4 and FA-4 are approved and were getting close to completing GF-6. He noted that API tries to keep its standard procedures in mind when looking at developing improved category processes.

API has not yet been asked to participate in any discussions regarding changes. Ferrick suspects that the API Lubricants Group will become involved if the ACC reviews the Lubrizol and Infineum proposals and comes to a consensus position.

ILSAC, the third member of the product category development and approval process, has not yet discussed any possible changes to the procedures. Ford Motor Co.s Ron Romano, current chairman of the ILSAC group, commented that he is always open to new ideas. Should the ACC and API groups become involved in a process to change new category development, he said, ILSAC will also participate.

ASTM is also deeply involved in the process since it develops the test procedures and limits for any new or updated engine tests that are required. Since ASTM is a voluntary organization, many of the people involved are also members of API, ACC or ILSAC. In addition, the contract laboratories – which are the primary testing organizations – are a part of the ASTM umbrella.

Related Topics

Regulations Specs & Testing    Specifications