In Homestretch, GF-4 Undergoes Tweaks


Even with the GF-4 passenger car engine oil upgrade way into the homestretch, the latest meeting of the ILSAC/Oil committee in Romulus, Mich., attracted more than the average number of attendees. When ILSAC/Oils chairman, Bob Olree of General Motors, called the meeting to order 36 industry representatives were present.

At the Oct. 22 meeting, no tests or limits were changed from the original draft specification issued Aug. 4. However, two of the engine test requirements were shifted around within the specification, the language was scrubbed a bit here and there, and numerous ASTM test methods were confirmed. These changes were sufficient to persuade the committee to send the specifications out for a final round of industrywide comment – due back to Kevin Ferrick of the American Petroleum Institute ( by Dec. 5.

Olree has scheduled a final ILSAC/Oil meeting for Dec. 17 to wrap up GF-4, after which ILSAC will promptly issue the final specification.

Availability of Group II base oil, needed to make the new engine oil, was a key issue aired at the meeting. Commenting on the earlier GF-4 draft, the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association had warned, The proposed limit essentially will eliminate the use of Group I base stocks.

The effective elimination of Group I base stocks by the GF-4 specification may be an effective restraint of trade for which lubricant manufacturers and marketers may need to seek redress, the trade group charged in September. Further, ILMA expressed concern that the availability and affordability of the Group II base stocks becomes a real issue.

Responding to this concern, ILSAC/Oil contracted with Kline and Co. for an assessment of the supply/demand outlook for API Group II base stock. Bill Downey, the consultancys vice president for petroleum and energy, laid out Klines assumptions and methodology before the meeting and concluded, If you agree with Klines assessment of current supply and demand, and accept Klines forecast of demand and supply in 2010 then you will conclude there will be sufficient Group II to meet demands … but not by much.

More narrowly, Downey predicted that by 2010, North America will have a Group I surplus of between 150 and 180 million gallons and a Group II/II+/III surplus of between 220 to 270 million gallons.

Downey also emphasized that there is a significant global traffic in base stocks, including much Group II and III. These base stocks are being imported into the U.S. and will continue to be in the foreseeable future, he added.

An embedded assumption in Klines analysis, he later explained to Lube Report, is that Group I will still have a place in some formulation approaches for passenger car motor oil, and not just SAE 10W-40 and monogrades. This could mean that either some suppliers of PCMOs are able to make ILSAC GF-4 with Group I oils, or that other suppliers take a non-ILSAC approach for 5W-X and 10W-X. If that embedded assumption is accepted, he said, so must be the conclusion that Group II supply will be adequate.

Asked to respond to the Kline analysis, ILMA Executive Director Celeste Powers stated last week, We havent seen the presentation and so are not in a position to comment on it.

The meeting attendees also reviewed the progress of the Sequence IIIG engine test. This new GM-sponsored test is a core component of GF-4, and measures high temperature wear and oxidation. During test runs, laboratory variations were observed in the tests oil consumption, caused, Olree explained, by smooth versus rough piston rings and lab-to-lab differences. The industry proceeded along two paths to address this issue.

First, the parts supplier (Central Parts Distributor) agreed to supply only smooth rings using honing techniques that result in reduced oil consumption. A honing workshop is scheduled for early December to insure that all labs and operators understand honing subtleties. Never before has the honing process in any sequence test been subjected to such intense scrutiny, noted Olree.

Second, a 12-member team pursued a statistical approach to the problem, focused on developing an oil consumption correction equation. Although the team had made considerable progress, the precision improvements in the hardware have made the equation unnecessary, it was reported.

Language of the draft GF-4 specification also has undergone some revisions, the meeting heard, mostly in the preamble which puts forth the underlying expectations of vehicle manufactures for oil marketers as they commercialize the new quality upgrade. These changes have somewhat reduced the hardness of the requirements, and instead introduced a new level of engineering judgment.

In the Aug. 4 version, for example, the preamble stated, This simplification of test requirements is only possible because the specified engine sequence tests have been correlated to a variety of vehicle tests. In the new version, the phrase correlated to has been changed to judged to be predictive of. The word correlation was also stripped elsewhere from the preamble in favor of less rigid language.

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