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Just under half of personal-use vehicles purchased in Europe in 2005 were diesel powered. By contrast, some 500,000 new diesel passenger vehicles were registered in the United States in 2005, just 3 percent of the total. Sill, that’s an 80 percent increase compared with 2000 and by 2015, J.D. Power & Associates estimates, 15.3 percent personal-use vehicles in North America will be diesel.

Speaking last month to the Mackinac Policy Conference, Chrysler President Tom LaSorda pointed out that today’s modern, clean-running diesels have the potential to provide a lot of bang for the buck. They can improve fuel economy and reduce CO2 ‘greenhouse’ emissions compared to an equivalent gas engine, and they provide durable and smooth performance.

According tot he EPA, if one-third of the country’s light-duty vehicles were diesels, we’d save as much as 1.4 million barrels of gasoline a day – which is the amount we import daily from Saudi Arabia, he added.

In 2005, Chrysler introduced a mid-size Jeep Liberty for this market, with an eye to selling perhaps 5,000 units. We have already sold more than double that number, LaSorda said. showing there is a growing customer receptiveness to diesels.

The automaker says its now time for the American Petroleum Institute to get on board too, by establishing an engine oil category for light-duty diesels. Suck a category would join API’s S series oils for gasoline-fueled engines and C categories for heavy-duty diesels. And at it’s may meeting in San Francisco, the group’s Lubricants Committee began debating it and how it could move in that direction.

Earlier, DaimlerChrysler had requested that API license an oil for light-duty diesel engines. In a conference call to the committee meeting, the company’s Chris Engel further discussed this need. He noted that the market is becoming more complex and there is little question that the diesel market will expand substantially.

Important issues for passenger car diesel are fuel economy and tightened emissions requirements mandated for 2007, called EPA Tier 2. Under Tier 2, emissions of NOx, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds will be reduced by 80 to 90 percent, compared to today’s Tier 1 limits. The oil’s contribution to meeting these limits is a concern for vehicle manufacturers.

ACEA, the European vehicle manufacturer’s trade association, is the issuing authority for European oil classes, called oil sequences. In 2004, ACEA issued it’s own C series of catalyst compatibility oils, for use in vehicles equipped with diesel particulate filters and three-way catalysts in high performance car and light-duty van diesel and gasoline engines. ACEA’s three C classes – C1, C2, C3 – address engines that requite low sulfated ash, phosphorus, and sulfer (SAPS) limits. (See Lubes’n’Greases, March 2005.)

Is this also the right approach for lubricating light-duty diesels in North America? For some time, the auto industry’s lubricants group, ILSAC, has been considering whether to recommend that the United States simply adopt one or all of the European C sequence oils, in preparation for the Tier 2 emissions standard. The automakers themselves have not come to a consensus position, but DaimlerChrysler at least knows what it wants: In a follow-up conference call on June 9, DaimlerChrysler’s Dennis Florkowski and Engel urged API to consider the feasibility of licensing an ACEA C3 low-SAPS diesel engine oil specification – and to provide a response by July 7.

API took the matter under consideration, as this issue went to press a follow-up conference call was scheduled for June 22.

Incorporating an ACEA class or category into a new API service category would be a first, and there are issues to be considered and resolved – not the least of which is developing the appropriate method for ATSM’s involvement. All other API categories are based on ASTM’s consensus standards.

Other questions include timing for a new API category to be issues, and whether engine oil marketers will embrace it – especially while light-duty diesel remains a tiny percentage of North American demand. One incentive for API to get on board may be to extend it’s reach into a new and growing area.

Licensing Up

At the same meeting, committee members heard an update on the Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System from API’s Kevin Ferrick. From 2000 to 2004, he noted, the number API licensees had plateaued in the mid-520’s in 2005, however, the number of licensees increased to 545, and the number of countries with at least one licensee climbed to 57, from 52 the year before. The major geographic area contributing new licensees is Asia going from 1366 to 149 participants, while the number of licensees from other geographic areas stayed roughly the same.

The number of licensed products increased by a record 20 percent, from 6,700 to 8,339 products. Much of the increase was attributed to newly licensed API SM oils.

API generated 20 emergency provisional licenses after disruptions caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last fall, based on documented base oil and additive supply issues. It also issued two additional such licenses in early 2006, based on further base oil shortages. These emergency provisional licenses are nearing their end and no more are currently anticipated, Ferrick reported.

At the end of April, 1,240 ILSAC starburst oils and 2,009 API SM oils for passenger cars engines had been licensed. On the heavy-duty diesel side, there were 890 CI-4 and CI-4 PLUS oils.

Watching Quality

Under it’s ongoing Aftermarket Audit Program the watchdog program that collects and evaluates licensed engine oils from marketplace outlets – API collected 559 samples in 2006. That’s a bit shy of it’s target of 600 samples a year, and below 2004’s actual audit of 611 samples. Ferrick attributed this decrease in part to the difficulty of obtaining samples from bulk tanks, rather than just picking up packaged quarts. Bulk samples in 2005 rose to 30 percent of the total samples, a 50 percent increase over 2004’s 121 bulk samples.

API wants bulk oils to be 40 percent of the samples drawn in 2006, and 50 percent of all audits in two years. In 2005, more than 80 percent of bulk samples were passenger car oils and the rest heavy-duty oils. Quick-lube facilities and service stations contributed a bit less than half of the bulk samples, with auto repair shops and dealers also contributing about half. Only three truck facilities contributed samples.

By mid-may, auditing was complete on 92 percent (514) of the samples gathered. Less than 1 percent of these were foind to have additive overtreats or undertreats. The audit also found:

  • 1 percent of samples were out of viscosity grade
  • 2.1 percent did not meet high temperature/high shear claims
  • Just over 1 percent failed the low-temperature pumping and NOACK volatility requirements
  • Cold cranking simulator testing found 3.7 [percent of the samples out of compliance, about twice the number in 2004

The good news is that there were no significant deviations, which API defines as having the potential to cause engine damage, for additives such as calcium or phosphorus. None of the deviations noted above rose to the level of license cancellations or removal of product from the marketplace. API enforcement actions consisted of violation notification letters and acceptable corrective actions from companies notified.

A number of non-conformance items may be related to base oil issues, and that comparison of elements could have been somewhat hampered by the market switch to API SM with first licensing on November 30, 2004, API consultant David Smith suggested.

Except for the increase in bulk sampling, the 2006 AMAP program will be unchanged intertek Caleb Brett continues as the contractor for both worldwide sample pickup, through it’s Pittsburgh Applied Research Center subsidiary, and for conducting the audit tests at its San Antonio laboratories. Seven or eight samples will undergo engine Sequence IIIG and VGI on top of the usual chemical and physical tests.

Marketing Ethincs

For several years, an ethics initiative has been underway at the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association (ILMA). In May, ILMA Executive Director Celeste Powers said that the guts of this program essentially involves an expansion of API’s existing Aftermarket Audit Program for API-Licensed oils, and that approximately 70 percent of ILMA members would have their engine oils tested each year. What’s more, even oils that are not API licensed would be tested. That’s an ambitious level of quality assurance.

Kevin Gerrick brought the Lubricants Committee up to date on this proposed joint testing program. He noted that six task force meetings had been held since August 2005, with attendees including API and ILMA staff, Valvoline, Afton Chemical and Lubrizol representing ACC, Nor-Lakes Services Midwest’s Jim Taglia, Advanced Lubrication Specialties’ President Greg Julian, and the Automotive Oil Change Association.

This task force recommended a focus on crankcase lubricants for now, Ferrick reported, and that the ILMA program – titled ILMAP – be established as a compliment to API’s AMAP.

As proposed, ILMAP will audit:

  • 30 to 35 API-licensed products from ILMA members (same as the average number now gathered from ILMA members per year).
  • 20 additional API-licensed ILMA samples randomly collected.
  • 20 samples of non-API-licensed oils from ILMA members, and
  • 10 additional ILMA special samples, to be randomly selected.

The API-licensed IOLMA samples will be collected through API AMAP and subjected to AMAP testing protocol, same as usual. The additional ILMAP samples will be subjected to a two-tier ILMA testing protocol.

Tier 1 contains six tests: five ASTM committee D authorized tests and one E test (for ashless antioxidant, dispersant). Every selected ILMA oil, except the samples picked up in the regular API audit, will be tested with the acceptance range used in either SAE J-300, API 1509 or task force profile.

Tier 2 contains four tests: the Orbahn shear test, to further characterize the oil’s viscosity modifier, HFRR, a coefficient of friction measurement to detect friction modifiers for GF-4, ASTM D-5293, a low-temperature cranking viscosity measurement that further characterizes base oil, VI improvers and pour point depressants; and ASTM D130, a copper strip test to measure non-dispersant nitrogen. The frequency of the tests used will will be decided by API on a case-by-case basis.

Funding for API’s traditional AMAP will continue from licensing fees, while ILMA will separately fund the cost of gathering and testing the ILMA-only samples. Both associations will share the cost of sampling additional API-licensed ILMA products.

Another aspect of the proposal, bulk oil certifications, was acknowledged to be a tough issue. API’s Ferrick calls it a massive task. ILMA has developed bulk oil handling guidelines and recommended practices , and has circulated them for comment. The bilk oil handling program being considered could involve bulk oil installers, distributors and blenders. Under one proposal, bulk oil facilities themselves might be certified and authorized to display some type of registered mark, as a sign of quality. Certified facilities would be subject to some form of audit.

The Lubricants Committee agreed to have staff continue work on this joint API/ILMA effort. Jim Newson, the committee’s new chairman, urged that the program be designed to benefit end users.

One member, however, pointed to a clear challenge. Looking at supply chains opens a big can of worms since individual firms have different supply chains. And Ferrick reinforced the complexity of the initiative by pointing to chain-of-custody issues.

At the conclusion of the discussion, API asked for additional volunteers to help in moving the effort forward. Initially there were non, but Valvoline’s Thom Smith then agreed to serve.

The target date for implementing the ILMA audit effort, ILMAP is Jan. 1, 2007.

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