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Diesel Oils: Heavy Lifting Ahead


TAMPA, Fla.- Under a soothing Florida sun, ASTMs Subcommittee B on Petroleum Products and Lubricants held its semi-annual meeting here in early December. At the top of its agenda was keeping the new diesel engine oil upgrade, called PC-10, moving forward along its very aggressive trajectory.

Enormous effort is being invested to bring PC-10 into service by June 2006. Nevertheless, the caution flag was out that it might take until October of that year – or later.

Unlike gasoline engine oil quality upgrades – which are negotiated through the joint auto/oil group called the ILSAC/Oil Committee – when it comes to heavy-duty oils ASTM retains full control of test development and setting of test limits. Its all done in ASTMs Heavy Duty Engine Oil Classification Panel.

However, if this panel were to be perceived as dragging its feet or simply not up to the task for any reason, diesel engine manufacturers (through their trade association, the Engine Manufacturers Association) have put everyone on strong notice that they will take whatever steps they deem necessary to get the quality upgrade in place in time for the introduction of new engines with new emission-control technology in mid-2006.

No one knows this better than the panels chairman, ChevronTexacos Jim McGeehan, whos held this position a total of 16 years and has an unmatched record of bringing new categories online in an acceptable time frame. He has harnessed the panel to an aggressive PC-10 schedule.

As with every engine oil quality upgrade, noted McGeehan, the central concern is the completion of new engine tests – and for this category there are three – and making them technically suitable for matrix testing.

Engine Tests Progress

How are these three tests (the Cummins ISB, Mack T-12 and Caterpillar C-13) coming along?

The Cummins ISB (EGR) test measures cross-head weight loss, filter plugging and sludge. Its a 200-hour, two-stage test with 6 percent soot loading; it will replace the Cummins M11 (EGR) test. Of the three new engine tests, it is the furthest along with the strong likelihood of a January 2005 completion date. Dave Stehouwer of Cummins was optimistic on the prognosis for this test.

Macks T-12 measures ring and liner wear, rod bearing wear and oil consumption. It puts oils through a 300-hour, two-stage regime, with 4 percent soot at 100 hours and 6 percent at 300 hours. An early 2005 completion date for this test seems highly likely; VolvoMacks Greg Shank reported that piston temperature issues are an immediate concern.

Caterpillars C-13 measures oil consumption, piston deposits and ring sticking. It uses an ACERT engine in a test run lasting 500 hours (three weeks). This brand-new, multicylinder test is clearly behind schedule, acknowledged Caterpillars Abdul Cassim.

The Lubricants Committee of the American Petroleum Institute, which will license the new oil when its ready for market, has communicated its firm opinion that the category should not be closed until the Caterpillar C-13 is ready for inclusion. It reasons that if the category is closed without the C-13 test in place, the result will be a repeat of its experience with the last diesel oil upgrade – namely, that Caterpillar will issue its own proprietary specification and the lubricants industry will be forced to issue a supplement to PC-10, like the recent CI-4 PLUS follow-up to API Service Category CI-4. Better to wait now for this test and get a solid category, API feels, than close early and have to revisit it soon thereafter.

Other PC-10 decisions to be made include which of the Caterpillar single-cylinder tests (required now for API CI-4/CH-4 category engine oils) to carry forward, and whether General Motors Sequence IIIF or new IIIG engine test – or neither – should be incorporated into the PC-10 test battery to measure oxidation. The latter issue is in limbo until its seen whether the IIIG is redundant with PC-10s new Mack T-12 test.

It Wont Be Cheap

All three new engine tests will require precision testing and the Caterpillar C-13 will also require additional test runs to establish base oil interchange. The total cost is expected to be $4.2 million to $4.5 million.

ExxonMobils Steve Kennedy reported that, statistically, 14 to 16 test runs are needed to establish precision for both the Cummins ISB (average: $50,000 per matrix test run) and the Mack T-12 ($75,000); four test stands are required for each, in two to four laboratories.

Since the Caterpillar C-13 ($95,000) requires data for base oil interchange, in addition to precision data, this test will require 26 runs on seven stands in five laboratories.

To run the precision matrix, EMA has selected two prototype PC-10 oil technologies and oil companies have offered three base oil slates. API has endorsed the use of the base oils offered to blend six SAE 15W-40 matrix oils. Matrix testing for each test will begin when the test is approved by the ASTM Heavy Duty Engine OilClassification Panel.

Kennedy reported that API and the American Chemistry Council (the additive companies trade group) each will contribute $1 million toward funding the matrix, and EMA will provide another $350,000 in cash and more than $650,000 in other contributions. Industry-funded tests will cost $2.33 million, and the balance will be funded by the engine test laboratories running calibration tests. Trade association contributions are significantly greater for this category than for past heavy-duty oil upgrades.

ACCs and EMAs contribution for matrix testing is derived from individual member company assessments. API, however, will insulate its members from a special assessment. Its $1 million share will come out of the $2 million or so in engine oil licensing fees it collects each year.

Although its licensing programs designated purpose is to assure the quality of current engine oils in the marketplace – rather than create new ones – API argues that this use of licensing fees is appropriate. The category development process is an integral part of ensuring consumers have the oil they need for their vehicles, an API staffer said.

Tight Deadline

McGeehan had planned to use the December meeting to lock in the engine test battery for PC-10 and proceed immediately to the testing matrix, thereby keeping the category on the agreed-upon time line. That didnt happen, and it may force a pushing back of the planned first API licensing of PC-10 oils from June 2006 to early October 2006.

However, the last six months of 2005 have been designated for demonstrations of the new oil technologies and setting limits. Compressing that period may provide some additional flexibility and allow licensing to begin on schedule. However, ACC and API are holding firm on the need for demonstration and qualification time, because of both the length and unknown appetite of these new tests.

McGeehan had scheduled follow-up meetings of the Panel on Jan. 13 and Feb.10, and another on March 2. The March meeting looms as the drop-dead date to formally accept each test and bring other issues to closure. Failure to do so then could have a major impact on delivery of the category on time with the possible delay of first licensing until later in 2006 or even into 2007.

The later prospect is not one anyone cares to think about.

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