Can GF-5 Clear Final Hurdles?


Some key components of the ILSAC GF-5 passenger car engine oil upgrade have begun falling into place, and commercialization now appears on track to begin by October 2010, sources say. That will make the oils available to service gasoline-fueled vehicles beginning with the 2011 model year.

The ILSAC/Oil Committee creating the new engine oil hopes to have a draft of the full specification and its test limits ready for balloting by its members sometime this month or October. ILSAC/Oil members include North American and Japanese auto manufacturers and engine oil marketers.

Kevin Ferrick, engine oil licensing manager at the American Petroleum Institute, said the work of writing the draft is making progress. If it can be circulated by October, that would still leave time to resolve any negative comments without risking the final timetable for the specification, he indicated.

The draft will include the nitty-gritty of the specification: the test limits that engine oils must pass in order to demonstrate they comply with the GF-5 standard. Successful oils will be able to get licenses to decorate their containers with the API “starburst” logo, which is referenced in most automobile owner’s manuals.

Another piece of the puzzle, the new Sequence VID engine test sponsored by General Motors and measuring the oil’s contribution to fuel economy, was approved by ASTM’s Passenger Car Engine Oil Classification Panel, led by Thomas Smith of Valvoline. It still needs a thumbs-up from the full ASTM Committee D-2 on Petroleum Products and Lubricants, but that vote should come before year’s end. ASTM Committee D-2 meets in Anaheim, Calif., in early December.

The ROBO bench test, created by a team led by Evonik RohMax researchers Raymond Romaszewski, Pam Palmer and Bernie Kinker, also was published by ASTM for the ILSAC GF-5 standard. ROBO (the Romaszewski Oil Bench Oxidation test) detects oil thickening at cold temperatures after the oil has aged, and is offered as an alternative to the far more costly Sequence IIIGA test. The 100-hour fired-engine IIIGA test costs about $40,000 to run; a 40-hour run on the sophisticated ROBO bench apparatus can be as little as $1,250.

In July, the American Chemistry Council began registering test runs of the Sequence VID and IIIGB tests under its Code of Practice. That means oil formulators can begin running these tests immediately to demonstrate their candidate engine oils’ performance for GF-5.

The IIIGB (which like the IIIGA is an extension of the Sequence IIIG wear test) measures the retention of phosphorus in the engine oil. Phosphorus is a key antiwear agent in engine oils, but phosphorus that is released into a vehicle’s exhaust system can shorten the life of its catalytic converter. Automakers have proposed that GF-5 oils should retain at least 85 percent of their phosphorus content over the length of this difficult test.

Still undecided is the fate of the TEOST test for high-temperature deposit control, which Chrysler asked to be included in GF-5. ILSAC, the auto industry’s group, agreed with that request, saying it will help prevent turbocharger coking, but the oil industry is still awaiting data from Chrysler that shows the test’s correlation to field experience.

Originally, the release of GF-5 was planned for third-quarter 2009, in order to service 2010 model-year passenger vehicles. The lengthy time needed to develop the Sequence VID fuel economy test, which uses a 3.6-liter, 24-valve V-6 engine from General Motors, added one year to that timeline.

If all stays on track from this point, commercial introduction of GF-5 will begin Oct. 1, 2010. That hinges on the ILSAC/Oil Committee approving the specification and its test limits no later than Jan. 1, which would allow exactly nine months for marketers to complete the required testing of their new oils and secure API licenses for their products.

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