Tougher Regs Raise EU Oil Standards


LONDON – Increasingly stringent environmental regulations will continue in coming years to raise performance demands for automotive engine oils in Europe, an official with Lubrizol Corp. told an industry conference here recently.

In a presentation at the ICIS World Base Oils Conference, Alison Fisher, Lubrizols Derby, U.K.-based global business manager for heavy duty engine oils, said inter-industry standards for both heavy duty and passenger car engine oils face significant upgrades in the next two years. In addition to making oils more expensive, she predicted that these changes will make the market more fragmented and will increase Europes appetite for API Group II and Group III base oils.

Environmental concerns have laid significantly increased demands on engine oils for both passenger cars and heavy duty trucks in recent years. The European Union adopted the Euro 3 and Euro 4 emissions standards in 2000 and 2005, reducing caps on vehicular emissions of a variety of pollutants. Limits on particulate matter, for example, fell by approximately two thirds, Fisher pointed out in her Feb. 15 presentation.

This drove car and truck manufacturers to employ a variety of technologies – exhaust gas recirculation, diesel particular filters, retarded fuel injection – designed to reduce or filter pollutants. To protect equipment added for these technologies, the engine oil industry in turn had to make fundamental changes in formulas, developing oils that contained less sulfated ash, phosphorus and sulfur – referred to collectively as SAPS.

At the same time, original equipment manufacturers also strove to improve fuel economy, in response to initiatives such as the international Kyoto Protocol and consumer desires to reduce operating costs. As part of their efforts to improve efficiency, OEMs sought engine oils that were lower in viscosity and that reduced friction.

Finally, car- and truck makers insisted that oils last longer and withstand more severe operating conditions created by a variety of vehicle and engine design changes.

The engine oil market faces another big round of changes in the next few years. The next round of emissions reduction legislation, Euro 5, will mandate a significant reduction in the level of many emissions for both heavy duty trucks and passenger cars,Fisher said, the former taking effect in October 2008, the latter in September 2009.

Manufacturers of heavy duty trucks are installing a combination of previously developed technologies to meet the new rules. ACEA is still drafting the inter-industry engine oil specifications to accommodate these changes. Fisher said the heavy duty spec, ACEA E9, will probably define a new category of Super High Performance Diesel oils with chemical limits and performance similar to the new API CJ-4 standard adopted in North America last year.

In addition, those drafting E9 have proposed TBN (total base number) and ash limits that would distinguish low-SAPS oils from those with higher SAPS content. Because it will cost significantly more to formulate oils meeting the new specification, consumers will continue to want existing oils for vehicles that do not demand E9. Fisher said this raises the prospect of oil marketers being compelled to multiply the number of products they carry.

We are seeing the globalization of specifications, she said, referring to an industry push to simplify the global market. But that does not mean product lines will become simpler. In fact, we will see more fragmentation, and product lines will become more complex.

ACEA participants are also proposing two-tier SAPS limits for passenger car oils, Fisher said, along with increased sludge handling capability and increased diesel injection performance.

By 2010, Fisher predicted, the passenger car engine oil market in Europe will have significant volume demand for four categories of oil – Euro 5 for initial fill in new vehicles, Euro 4 for vehicles aged one and a half to five years, Euro 3 for those five to 10 years old and Euro 2 for those older than 10 years. Moreover, multiple viscosity grades will be demanded within some of those categories.

The introduction of Euro 5 will result in increased demand for API Group II and Group III base oils for heavy-duty diesel oils, Fisher said. API Group II will be coming with the ACEA E9 specification.

On the passenger car side, demand for Group III base oils will increase significantly. By 2010, Fisher said, half the market [for base oils for passenger car engine oils] will be Group III.

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