API Invokes Provisional Licensing Again


The American Petroleum Institute last week invoked provisional licensing for the ILSAC GF-5 and API SN with Resource Conserving passenger car engine oil categories.

It marked the second time in less than a year that the industry took the action because it could not conduct a key test, in this case the Sequence VID test for fuel economy. APIs Lubricants Group is developing a replacement test, but it could be several months before the new test is ready.

The timing of the potential replacement depends on the number of stands used as part of the test survey, said APIs Kevin Ferrick, senior manager of APIs Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System, referring to a plan to determine limits for the Sequence VIE replacement test by testing oils previously qualified to GF-5 and SN-RC. If we can use three stands at the two independent labs, then its possible testing could be completed in three to four months. Presumably it would take the panel additional time to analyze the results of those tests and decide on the limits.

In its March 1 announcement about invoking provisional licensing, API said it was informed by ASTM on Feb. 8 that the Sequence VID was no longer available because independent test labs had run out of usable engine test stands. In addition to being a required test for GF-5 and SN-RC, the Sequence VID can be used as a substitute for the Sequence VIB test in qualifying for the API SL and SL Energy Conserving categories.

API adopted its provisional licensing guidelines procedures for such circumstances. Oil formulators may still apply to qualify oils for GF-5 and SN-RC as the online application for the organizations Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System (EOLCS) includes a box that can be checked when seeking a provisional license. Applicants may not check the box if their formulation has undergone the Sequence VID test.

In accordance with APIs guidelines for provisional licensing, the applicant must be able to provide alternative data to indicate that the formulation would have passed the Sequence VID. Requirements for such data are spelled out in API 1509, paragraph 6.7.3 and provisions for Level 2 support described in the American Chemistry Councils Code of Practice.

Whenever the Sequence VIE is approved as a replacement test – or if the Sequence VID becomes available again – API will lift provisional licensing, and companies with provisionally licensed formulations will have six months to obtain a passing result. Licensees will be required to submit new applications, and once approved the provisional licenses will be withdraw.

If a provisionally licensed oil fails to pass the Sequence VID or substitute test, the licensee must notify API immediately. API may demand the licensee recall the provisionally licensed oil. If an application is not received by the end of the six-month period, API will cancel the Provisional License for that formulation.

Engine oils granted an API Provisional License will be listed in API’s Directory of Licensees without any special designation. The licensee is still responsible for the satisfactory performance of all engine oils granted an API Provisional License.

A few hurdles must still be cleared before the industry can use the Sequence VIE as a replacement for the Sequence VID. The ACC and APIs Lubricants Group must approve the survey plan, which calls for API to pull blind samples of approved GF-5 oils from the field and to test them on the VIE. In this way the groups would determine what oils that have passed the VID should score on the VIE.

The API Lubricants Group hopes to finalize the plan at a March 16 meeting. A memorandum of agreement between ACC and API would then need to be signed.

The industry has encountered problems with several engine tests because of long delays in the development of ILSAC GF-6, the next passenger car engine oil category in North America. In April of last year API invoked provisional licensing for several oil categories when the industry ran out of bearings used in the Sequence VIII test for wear and viscosity loss. In that case, provisional licensing was lifted in August after development of replacement bearings.

Before that, provisional licensing had not been invoked since 2011. Weve never had to invoke it for two different tests so closely together, Ferrick said.