PC-10: Past Its Due Date?


SAN ANTONIO, Texas — ASTM’s Heavy Duty Engine Oil Classification Panel, which is responsible for moving forward the new PC-10 heavy-duty engine oil quality upgrade, met here last month in an increasingly tense environment. The amount of time remaining to meet diesel engine builders’ October 2006 deadline for having new oils licensed and available in the marketplace has come up sharply against the realities of getting new tests accepted into the category and completing candidate product testing.

The Engine Manufacturers Association, which represents heavy-duty engine makers, has called for the American Petroleum Institute to begin licensing oils for the new category (likely to be known as CJ-4 in the marketplace) not later than next October. However, as Valvoline’s Bill Runkle pointed out at the Panel’s Oct. 27 meeting, under the current schedule first licensing could not take place earlier than Dec. 27, 2006 — at best.

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The engine test matrix for the new category was completed on Sept. 27, and the established timeline allows 15 months following that date for all candidate oil testing to be completed. This lets all marketers enter the marketplace at the same time with their API-licensed products.

A six-month “test demonstration period,” included in that timeline and currently under way, also allows additive companies to begin evaluating new products — up to a point. Additive companies are not willing to begin full-scale testing because the test limits are not yet set. Naturally, until the targets are firm, they are reluctant to sustain what are bound to be very high testing costs.

Panel Chairman Jim McGeehan, of Chevron, noted that this new category will have far more engine sequence tests — 10 — than any earlier category, gasoline or diesel. By comparison, API CD heavy-duty oils, introduced 50 years ago, needed only two engine tests, and API CF oils, approved in 1994, required just three.

In addition to the engine tests, six bench tests will be in the category. All contribute to an estimated cost of $1 million for approving a new candidate oil, assuming that all test runs result in a pass on the first attempt.

Costliest of these is Caterpillar’s new C-13 engine test, which measures oil consumption and deposits. Caterpillar has sponsored a lubricant test since 1937, but all its tests prior to this one were based on a single-cylinder engine. The C-13 is the company’s first multi-cylinder test and, as CAT’s Abdul Cassim noted, “with a six-cylinder test there are six times the number of decision points.” The C-13’s test run takes three weeks and requires another week to evaluate. At about $125,000 per run, the C-13 is the most expensive test in the category.

Moreover, some estimates place the C-13’s pass/fail rate at about 50 percent. Additive supplier Infineum calculated that if full Base Oil Interchange and Viscosity Grade Read-Across rules can be applied, at that pass/fail rate the industry will require seven to 12 months to complete all the necessary testing for new oil programs. Any uncertainty with BOI/VGRA issues, and the number of tests required will climb, further expanding the time required for first licensing.

Larry Kuntschik, representing the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association, brought the first-licensing issue into sharp focus: “Compressed technology development timelines and hurried first-license dates have historically adversely impacted ILMA member companies, which are small and tend to be near the bottom of ACC’s priority list when securing product approvals. Moreover, the lack of well-defined BOI/VGRA guidelines has a similar adverse effect on our companies.” (ACC is the American Chemistry Council, which represents the chemical additive companies. Its members undertake almost all engine oil tests.)

Asked what would be an acceptable timeline, Kuntschik replied, “ACC has the best handle on technology development requirements and engine test availability. When ACC is comfortable, ILMA is served.”

In most prior quality upgrades API has insisted on having a 12-month period between the category approval date and first API licensing. On a few occasions, API has compressed this to nine months.

Volvo Powertrain’s Greg Shank, chairman of EMA’s Lubricants Committee, said EMA understood and was supportive of ILMA’s position, while at the same time pointing out the importance of the EMA mandate.

Matrix Testing Success
While the time constraints were at the front of everyone’s mind, the testing matrix for PC-10’s three new engine tests — the Cummins ISB, Caterpillar C-13 and Mack T-12 — was completed on time, the meeting heard. Test Monitoring Center’s John Zalar, who supervised the matrix, reported that 16 runs of the Mack T-12 had been scheduled and 16 were completed, with four tests aborted or invalid. For the Cummins ISB, 15 tests were scheduled and 15 were completed with three aborted/invalid runs. And for the C-13, 26 tests were scheduled and 26 completed with just a single misfire.

“Matrix statisticians spent many hours analyzing and reanalyzing matrix data,” Zalar said. “The statistical group accomplished their objective of reaching consensus on the analysis to be presented” to surveillance panels and to the Classification Panel. While more work may be required the group did not expect that the analysis would change significantly.

The cost of the matrix, while fully anticipated, was eye-popping nonetheless — $5.5 million for 57 completed tests and the eight incomplete ones. This cost is far higher than any earlier test matrix, at least double the previous high. The three trade associations (API, ACC and EMA) provided 42 percent of the matrix cost ($2.35 million), and laboratories financed another 40 percent ($2.2 million). There were in-kind contributions of test parts by EMA ($650,000) and test oils by API and ACC ($54,000).

The Classification Panel next meets Dec. 5 and 6 in Norfolk, Va., when a final ballot is expected; final approval of all test limits is to be completed not later than January 2006. To flush out technical concerns that may bedevil these next steps and to avoid time delays, the Panel sent an interim ballot — a so-called “exit criteria ballot” — to its members, so that any concerns can be fully aired and a consensus achieved at the upcoming meeting.

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