GF-6 Timeline Wobbles Again

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BOSTON – At last weeks semiannual gathering of ASTM Committee D2, both the Passenger Car Engine Oil and Heavy Duty Engine Oil Classification Panels met here to discuss the status of key industry specifications, starting with the much-delayed ILSAC GF-6 passenger car engine oil upgrade.

At the PCEOCP, much of the discussion covered new and legacy engine tests needed to support ILSAC GF-6. It was clear from the meeting that the earliest marketers could license these engine oils would be July 2019. There is no official timeline in place, as details around all tests are not finalized and stakeholders do not want to issue a revised timeline until they are more confident in their ability to confirm an official new date. However, this date considers the status of all the engine tests being developed, and accounts for the one-year tech/demo period for the additive companies to finalize their technology as well as the one-year mandatory waiting period once the specification is defined and limits are agreed on.

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It appears that the new Sequence IVB engine test, which uses a late-model Toyota engine to gauge valvetrain wear, is the test on the critical path to determine final ILSAC GF-6 timing, and the earliest that test could be finalized is year-end 2017. Other tests are ready or much closer to being finalized, the panel heard.

One consideration to not delay ILSAC GF-6 further would be to launch the new specification with the existing Sequence IVA valvetrain wear test (which is based on a late-90s-era Nissan engine), and replace it with the Sequence IVB at some point in the future. Given that the tests are somewhat different and this could impact formulation space, this option may still not be viable, which could mean the first-allowable use of the GF-6 designation on product labels could be delayed well past July 2019.

The American Petroleum Institutes BOI/VGRA task force also met alongside ASTM to review all the work needed to establish appropriate base oil interchange and viscosity grade read across rules for all the base stocks that will be required for ILSAC GF-6 and its API SP companion category. This effort is expected to cost over $3 million and is also critical to finalizing an official schedule for ILSAC GF-6.

The PCEOCP will meet again this month along with the Auto/Oil Advisory Panel. The latter group did not convene in Boston as it was decided to delay the meeting to when members would be in a better position to discuss and vote on key issues. These meetings will take place in Detroit.

Worth noting is all the effort and progress by industry stakeholders to advance the four replacement tests and three new engine tests for the new passenger car engine oil category. Even without ILSAC GF-6, replacing the four legacy tests is critical to enable existing specifications and API categories to continue to be licensed. Having multiple tests unavailable at the same time is unprecedented, which is why it is critical to get these replacement tests in place.

Today, the Sequence VID fuel economy test is no longer available – totally out of parts – and marketers who seek to license new ILSAC GF-5 or API SN/Resource Conserving products may need to use provisional licensing for API approval. The positive news is that a replacement test, the new Sequence VIE, is ready and industry is developing equivalent ILSAC GF-5 limits to allow it to stand in for the defunct Sequence VID. Meanwhile, the new Sequence VIF test is also close to ready to allow API to license SAE 0W-16 engine oils as API SN/Resource Conserving.

This work is being guided by APIs Category Life Oversight Group, or CLOG. The group has also developed equivalent limits for API SM/SN for the new Sequence IIIH oxidation and deposit test which will replace both the Sequence IIIF and IIIG. These tests will run out of parts by first-quarter 2018 and are not only critical for the light duty specifications but are also essential to maintaining older diesel engine oil categories. CLOG still has lots of work to do to manage all the new replacement tests and ensure that proper test limits are set to maintain older API specifications well into the future.

The Heavy Duty Engine Oil Classification Panel and Diesel Engine Oil Advisory Panel also met in Boston but their meetings were largely uneventful. Kevin Ferrick, who manages engine oil licensing at API, noted that licensing of API CK-4 is going well and outpacing the API CJ-4 licensing effort at the same point in time. API FA-4 licensing is proceeding at a slower pace, he reported. Both heavy duty engine oil categories made their debuts on Dec. 1.

Existing diesel engine tests were discussed and most seem to be in good shape till at least 2020. The Engine Oil Aeration Test only has one engine remaining and should be replaced by the new Caterpillar aeration test, but at this time is not viewed as urgent. The heavy duty groups next meetings will not occur until the December ASTM meeting in Houston.