API Sends Out GF-5 Ballot


On Thursday, Nov. 19, the American Petroleum Institute’s Lubricants Committee voted by conference call to issue immediately a ballot for comment on the new ILSAC GF-5 passenger car engine oil standard. The draft GF-5 specification emerged from an ILSAC/Oil Committee meeting on Nov. 18, and represents the majority position of that group, where voting was four in favor of the proposal with two abstentions.

ILSAC/Oil, the group which developed GF-5, includes representatives of North American and Japanese auto manufacturers, oil marketers and additive companies. If approved now by wider industry, GF-5 will be administered by API, and licensed oils meeting the stringent new specification will be able to display the API starburst logo on their containers.

The ballot seeks comments on the standard by Dec. 19 from industry participants. That will leave ILSAC/Oil only a few days to address and resolve any negatives, and to issue the specification by Dec. 31.

Target date for first licensing of GF-5 is nine months later, Oct. 1, 2010. Until then, if the ballot is approved, formulations that meet GF-5 may be licensed under the current GF-4 standard beginning Jan. 1, 2010. Products meeting the GF-4 standard will continue to be acceptable for licensing for only one year after GF-5 debuts (that is, until Sept. 30, 2011).

Over the past several months, the auto industry’s ILSAC group and the oil marketers agreed to the majority of the tests and limits that define GF-5. However, two limits — weighted piston deposits (WPD) in the Sequence IIIG engine test, and fuel economy improvement for one viscosity grade in the Sequence VID engine test — remained as sticking points, with ILSAC seeking tougher passing limits on both.

Oil marketers and American Chemistry Council representatives had pointed out that the two limits could be in conflict, since the additive components needed to combat deposits generally result in a reduction in fuel economy performance. The draft GF-5 ballot includes the higher limits insisted on by the automakers, with a minimum rating of 4.0 WPD merits in the Sequence IIIG, and at least 2.6 percent total improvement and 1.2 percent retained improvement in fuel economy of SAE XW-20 oils in the Sequence VID.

These are “the lowest limits that still represent a meaningful improvement over GF-4 with respect to engine oil robustness and fuel economy as required by the ILSAC GF-5 Needs Statement,” ILSAC Chairman Matthew Snider, of General Motors, told oil marketers in a Nov. 18 letter.

Oil marketers, hoping for some relief, had proposed 3.7 minimum WPD with the ILSAC-desired fuel economy limits. Otherwise, they said, if ILSAC insisted on WPD of 4.0, the Sequence VID fuel economy improvement for SAE XW-20 needed to be eased. However, in the final analysis, the ILSAC position prevailed in the draft now out for ballot.

The Lubricants Committee also decided during its Nov. 19 conference call that API service category SN, the non-fuel-economy version of GF-5, will be prepared and balloted in mid-December. This service category, an upgrade of the current API SM, also needs to be active by Oct. 1, 2010. Oils that are licensed to SN will be able to display the API “donut” trademark.

At this point, API SN requirements are not nailed down. However, if a comparison to API SM versus GF-4 is any indication of what API SN might look like relative to GF-5, it appears that only minor adjustments may be made. For example, limits might differ for high-temperature deposits, phosphorus and sulfur content, and contribution to fuel economy.

The draft GF-5 specification can be viewed or downloaded at the API website, http://www.api.org/certifications/engineoil/. (See “API Considering New ILSAC Engine Oil Performance Standard.”)

Industry sources told Lube Report that while the GF-5 standard being balloted contains significant upgrades from GF-4, the draft would not have reached ballot stage without fairly strong support from API, ACC and ILSAC members. There may still be issues that arise, negative votes to resolve, and a great deal of pressure on the time line, but it appears that the market could have a GF-5 standard available in time for commercial introduction on Oct. 1, 2010.

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