How Do Engine Oils Poison Catalysts?


Southwest Research Institute is combining two previously announced initiatives in an attempt to attract companies to study how lubricating oils poison automotive emissions control systems.

Officials said the project is spurred by pending regulations expected to require new emissions control systems in the latter half of this decade.

Experience with gasoline engines has shown that lubricating oils can reduce the efficiency of gasoline emissions control systems, Senior Research Scientist Gordon J.J. Bartley said. Similar issues are expected with diesel emissions control systems. However, there is still only a slight understanding of how lubricating oils affect emissions system performance. A better understanding of the oil poisoning mechanisms in both gasoline and diesel would be very helpful for future emissions system and lubricating oil design.

The new initiative combines two consortia previously proposed but never launched by the San Antonio, Texas, non-profit organization. The Diesel Aftertreatment Sensitivity to Lubricants Consortium is a cause-and-effect study aimed at determining the degree to which lubricating oil components – such as sulfur, phosphorus, zinc and calcium – deactivate emissions control systems. The Non-Thermal Catalyst Deactivation Consortium was proposed to explore the mechanisms of emissions control system deactivation resulting from oil exposure.

Southwest said it merged the two in response to input from interested parties. Officials said it makes sense to combine the initiatives because of the similarity of the science of lubricant and catalyst interactions for diesel and gasoline emission control systems.

The cost-sharing attribute of the consortium allows many projects to be performed at a fraction of the cost, said Bruce Bykowski, an assistant director in Southwests Emissions Research Department.

Five members are required to form the consortium, with a target of 10 needed to perform the first year’s work. Southwest plans to convene a kick-off meeting in February or March and expects 12 to 15 companies to join the first year. Membership costs $85,000 per company.

Increasingly stringent emissions regulations are already leading original equipment manufacturers to install new control systems. Beginning with the current model year, diesel truck engines are equipped with exhaust gas recirculation systems that return a portion of exhaust to engines so that more soot can be captured. Tighter regulations scheduled to take effect in the next few years are expected to require even more sophisticated technology.

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