Panel Postpones GF-4 Approval


Citing a desire to be thorough in its response to critics, the committee writing the next passenger car motor oil standard delayed its final vote last week. Members of the ILSAC/Oil Committee said they plan to approve the GF-4 specification at a Jan. 8 meeting and do not plan to make any further changes to the draft, despite complaints from independent lubricant blenders and quick-lube operators.

The specification has already been delayed for more than a year, and the committee is under the gun to finish its work so GF-4 oils can make their commercial debut by the end of July.

Im pretty sure its going to wrap up at the next meeting, said one committee member, who spoke on condition of anonymity. It would be disastrous for all of us if it were delayed significantly. All of us have invested a lot of time, and some of us have invested a lot of money in testing.

Automakers, the driving force behind the effort to develop GF-4, say the draft specification makes significant improvements in oxidative stability and engine protection, will allow improved fuel economy and will better protect air pollution control equipment.

The standard has drawn criticism, though, from the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association and the Automotive Oil Change Association. Both groups warned that the new standard, by lowering viscosity of motor oils, could cause an increase in oil consumption in older cars and consequently an increase in air emissions, which GF-4 was supposed to cut. ILMA has also complained that the specification may require so much Group II base stock that some independents may be shut out of the market.

The committee, which began drafting GF-4 in 2001, had planned to wrap up its work at the Dec. 17 meeting. ILSAC – the International Lubricant Standardization and Approvals Committee, which representsU.S. and Japanese automakers – intended to issue the specification the next day.

ILSAC/Oil members told Lube Report after the Dec. 17 meeting that the committee disagrees with the critics arguments. Members said they are convinced base oil supplies will meet GF-4 demand, largely because they expect formulators will be able to make 10W-30 oils using Group I stocks blended with Group II-plus or Group III. This would be significant, even if Group I stocks cannot be used in 5W-30 and 5W-20 oils, they said, because 10W-30 is still the most popular grade of passenger car motor oil.

ILSAC/Oil has been waiting for data showing that a demonstration 10W-30 oil with Group I can meet GF-4, but no data was presented at the Dec. 17 meeting. Members said an attorney with the American Petroleum Institute, which is providing staff support for the committee, advised waiting for data before responding to ILMA and putting GF-4 to bed.

Some of us were ready to respond right there, a member said. But the attorney said we should wait until we had the actual information in hand. Its a question of making sure we dot all the is and cross the ts for our response to ILMA.

Members said they expect to have information on a demonstration 10W-30 oil made with Group I at the Jan. 8 meeting.

From an engineering perspective, were convinced a 10W-30 can be made with Group I, and most of us were ready to say so at this meeting, another member said. But we decided to wait until we have the data in hand. And Im confident we will have the data at the next meeting.

As to the oil viscosity issue, one member said the committee decided it was a matter of car manufacturer recommendations and therefore outside the scope of ILSAC/Oils responsibility.

There was also a delay last week in the timing for API SM, the engine oil category that APIs Lubricant Committee is developing as a companion to GF-4. The S category is the specification motor oils must meet to display APIs donut, a trademark meant to identify oils that meet the latest standards. API’s previous Sspecifications have generally mirrored thecurrentGF standard, but SM will also need to define higher-viscosity oils, such as 10W-40, which fall outside of GF-4’sfuel economy limits.

The Lubricant Committee had scheduled a Dec. 15 teleconference, during which it hoped to wrap up its work on SM, including descriptive label language for the new category. However, members canceled the meeting 20 minutes after it was to start, saying they were not prepared to deal with its main topic:whether to continue to closely mimick the ILSAC specification except for its fuel economy requirement, or whether to allow marketers to use additional language under SM to identify other performance attributes, such as wear protection or emission system protection.

API officials said the committee will reschedule the meeting for early next year but has not yet set a date.

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