Regulations Specs & Testing

Just In Time, ASTM Delivers


Following years of effort – and a final nailbiting climax – ASTMs Heavy Duty Engine Oil Classification Panel completed just-in-time delivery of the next diesel engine oil specification. In the marketplace, these upgraded oils are going to be called API CJ-4 – after the final few is are dotted and ts crossed.

The ASTM panel approved the new oils final test limits at a special meeting in Chicago Jan. 26, handing over a complete specification to the American Petroleum Institute so it can begin licensing the improved fluids for sale this October – exactly as engine manufacturers have demanded.

These next-generation oils are designed to lubricate the EPA-compliant 2007 model year engines that will begin appearing at dealer showrooms just as the oils make their marketplace debut.

However, the new oil has a few formalities to get through, Kevin Ferrick of API reminds. The API Lubricants Committee were to meet by phone conference on Feb. 6 to discuss the category, its limits and user language, he said. Greg Shank of Volvo Powertrain and Steve Kennedy of ExxonMobil, co-chairs of the Diesel Engine Oil Advisory Panel, are expected to present the category formally to the entire committee for review and discussion. If a majority of the committee agrees to it, API then will send out a formal ballot for approval. (This ballot also is where the API CJ-4 designation officially debuts.)

From the ballots issue date, a 30-day comment period begins, open to all. This comment period cannot be shortened, even if the full committee were to vote an immediate thumbs-up, because wider industry opinions must be heard. That will make it mid-March before the ballot can be adopted, so API licensing could begin seven months later on Oct. 15, Ferrick said.

How Much?

API CJ-4 is both rigorous and costly. Each candidate formulation must undergo nine engine sequence tests – three of them newly developed just for this category – and six bench tests. CJ-4 also has strict limits on the amount of sulfated ash, phosphorus and sulfur that the oils may contain, so as not to contribute to emissions or interfere with on-board emission control systems. Cost to qualify an oil formulation for licensing is in the range of $500,000 – if it manages to pass the entire battery of tests on the first try.

Originally, 10 engine sequence tests were planned for the oils, but one (the Caterpillar 1P test for engine deposits and oil consumption) was withdrawn at the final hour. Caterpillar Inc. decided it was safe to omit the 1P as a requirement, since its new C13 engine test for engine deposits and oil consumption appears to be adequate for that area. There was also doubt whether sufficient parts would be available to support the 1P test over the entire life of the category. Cutting the 1P will save formulators about $35,000 in engine testing costs.

Collision Averted

API CJ-4 also had a cliffhanger finale, when Caterpillar in December said it also would be introducing two new proprietary oil specifications. During the ASTM Committee D-2 meeting in Norfolk, Va., the companys Abdul Cassim 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. If Cats mew specs were issued prior to CJ-4, and their limits differed from those for CJ-4, as Cassim originally indicated, it would have pit 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.

Fortunately, in early January Cassim 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. Caterpillar, he indicated, would retard the timing of its ECF-2 specification, so the October deadline could be met for CJ-4.

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 was able to tell the panels 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.

Brakes Off

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.

No doubt one of the most satisfied sighs came from Chevrons Jim McGeehan, who has been chairman of the Heavy Duty Engine Oil Classification Panel for 18 years. During his tenure, six new diesel engine oil categories have been established, starting with API CE through CF-4, CG-4, CH-4, CI-4 and soon, CJ-4. Each has been delivered on time and with industrywide concurrence – an achievement unmatched throughout the industry, and one he credits to a great team.

Weve been introducing a new category about every three years since 1988, successfully and on time, McGeehan pointed out to LubesnGreases last month. This only is because of the great teamwork between the additive companies, the engine manufacturers and the oil companies, who have all been willing to work together through all that time.

Its a team that includes three trade associations that are deeply involved in developing new heavy-duty engine oil categories. The American Petroleum Institute represents oil marketers; the American Chemistry Council represents chemical additive companies, which undertake almost all engine oil research and formulation along with candidate engine oil testing; and the Engine Manufacturers Association represents heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers. Each group has separate interests and, in fact, companies within each trade association often have their own specific interests to work through – as the Caterpillar C-13 issue vividly demonstrated.

However, a cooperative spirit was on display over the past six months, as each trade association and its individual members worked to complete the specification. McGeehan kept all focused on the timeline, which was put in place to ensure that an upgraded engine oil would be commercialized this fall, in time to lubricate the new diesel engines being introduced to meet tough EPA emissions mandates.

This robust engine oil category is expected to remain in place for a long time, McGeehan added. This is the first time weve had a low SAPS [sulfated ash, phosphorus and sulfur] category, he said, and although there is another round of federally mandated diesel emissions reductions coming in 2010, we think this oil will meet the industrys needs for a long time. So far, he added, theres no sign from OEMs that they expect a new oil category to be needed for the 2010 engines. Looking a few years beyond that, he held out the hope that the next heavy-duty specification might actually be truly global – satisfying the needs of U.S., European and Japanese diesel manufacturers alike.

Later this month, if all goes as planned, the door will open wide for candidate oils to tackle the entire CJ-4 test regime, so they can qualify for licensing by API, which should begin in October – on time.

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