API CJ-4: Just 24 Hours to Go?


The new API CJ-4 diesel engine oil specification is barreling towards approval tomorrow by ASTMs Heavy Duty Engine Oil Classification Panel at a special meeting the group has scheduled in Chicago. Virtually every technical hurdle has been cleared and – thanks to a decision by Caterpillar Inc. to retard the timing of its own new proprietary specification – panel members say that the American Petroleum Institute should indeed be able to begin licensing its new category in mid to late October.

At its most recent meeting onJan. 11 in San Antonio, ASTMs Heavy Duty Engine Oil Classification Panel finalized the test limits for all 10 engine sequence tests and five of the six bench tests that will be required for CJ-4.

At that meeting, Caterpillars Abdul Cassim also clarified the technical details and timing for his companys new engine crankcase fluid specifications, ECF-2 and ECF-3, easing worries that they could threaten CJ-4s first-licensing date.

In December, Cassim had precipitously announced the new specifications, and said they would be implemented prior to or simultaneously with CJ-4. That would have seriously jeopardized the ASTM Panels ability to meet demands from heavy-duty engine builders (including Caterpillar itself) that CJ-4 be delivered this October.

The collision between the onrushing API and Caterpillar specifications centered around the fact that both require candidate products to pass CATs new C-13 engine test, which monitors oil consumption and deposits. There are only 10 calibrated C-13 test stands available today in the oil test industry, and each 500-hour test run takes about a month to run, rate test parts and rebuild for the next run. Originally, Cassim had indicated that ECF-2 and ECF-3 would be issued prior to CJ-4, and that their limits could differ from those for CJ-4 – potentially pitting oil marketers trying to qualify products to the CAT spec against those who were trying to qualify CJ-4 oils.

According to Tom Cousineau of Afton Chemical, if CAT stuck with its proposed schedule, it would have been impossible to complete all API CJ-4 test programs in time to begin licensing in October and allow all marketers to bring their API-approved products to market at the same time.

On behalf of the American Chemistry Council, which represents the additive companies which shoulder most of the costs of product testing, Cousineau had evaluated the industrys CJ-4 testing capacity, with a special focus on the C-13 test, which costs an estimated $125,000 per run. Had Caterpillar maintained its proposed ECF-2 launch schedule, Cousineau calculated, the best-case scenario would have required 74 test passes, which would have required 15 to 19 months to complete all test programs, with first API licensing in May 2007 at the earliest. A worst-case scenario might have delayed first-licensing even further, to September 2008, he added.

While Caterpillar had offered to make available up to four uncalibrated stands at its facilities, Cousineau pointed out that the ACC Code of Practice states that all engine testing for product approvals must be conducted using only equipment and facilities current in monitoring and calibration with the ASTM Test Monitoring Center. So Caterpillars offer of uncalibrated stands could not be accepted; Caterpillar now is working to calibrate some of its stands over the next few months.

However, now that Caterpillar has assured that its ECF-2 specification will not become effective until early 2007, the October deadline seems a cinch.

With a 40 percent to 50 percent rate, 10 calibrated stands, one month for each C-13 test run and full API base oil interchange and viscosity grade read-across guidelines, six to eight months would be necessary for CJ-4 testing and the October, 2006 first API licensing date could be met, Cousineau told the Jan. 11 meeting.

Cassim noted that industry comments and concerns had been appreciated and addressed. Specifically, he stated, the ECF-2 implementation date will be extended to the first quarter of 2007. He also suggested that its possible for the C-13 test limits for both categories to be aligned, and the limits for ECF-2 will be released in June, also easing the crunch. Further, no licensing claims under CATs new ECF-2 oil specifications would be allowed before the first quarter of 2007, Cassim said.

These actions brought a collective sigh of relief from participants that added pressure on the CJ-4 timeline had been lifted. Caterpillar had earlier expressed strong support for the API category system and the EMA timeline.

As a final technical hurdle, thepanel had to deal with the issue of a single C-13 parameter titled the 2RTC, which stands for the second ring top carbon rating. This parameter was thought to not have been rated consistently in the costly 26-test matrix which established the tests precision. Raters – experts who inspect the engines parts after each candidate oil test is run – had not been trained in how to distinguish between hard and light carbon deposits and which areas of the ring were to be included in their evaluation. As a result, the ratings of the same ring rated by different raters, stated as the number of demerits, were possibly inconsistent across the participating labs.

Earlier, Caterpillar had addressed negative ballots and concerns regarding the 2RTC parameter with concise and clear data and arguments that convinced the panel members to accept it. The 2RTC parameter, Cassim noted, addresses potential ring-sticking issues seen rarely with CI-4 oils on some OEMs engines. In response to the disappointing outcome of the test matrix, he said, a ring rating workshop had recently been held to determine the degree of inconsistency of rating the 2RTC parameter, to correct this so it can be rated consistently, and to finalize rating procedures. The pre-calibration workshop showed rater consistency for carbon was high, and similar to the overall range experienced in the precision testing matrix. Additionally, he said, post-calibration workshops showed improvement in consistency of ratings – better than that known for other, more-frequently rated deposit parameters.

With this major impediment resolved, the panel wrapped up work on setting limits on the balance of the new categorys engine test battery.

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