Finished Lubricants



As I write this, I have just finished four grueling days in Orlando, Florida, attending the semi-annual meeting of ASTM Committee D02 on Petroleum Products and Lubricants. I know, you are saying to yourself, How can four days in December at Disney Worlds doorstep be grueling? The fact is, the days are packed with meetings of different groups and on any number of vital subjects, making it impossible to reach the gates of the Magic Kingdom.

What goes on at an ASTM D02 meeting is pretty remarkable given that this is a voluntary organization whose primary task is to develop and maintain the tests needed to quantify fuel and lubricant properties and performance under all sorts of conditions. In addition to the bench tests that all lubricant laboratories run (e.g. viscosity, flash point, etc.), this is where youll see how engine sequence tests are developed and monitored by technical committees, classification panels and ASTMs Test Monitoring Center.

According to ASTMs magazine Standardization News, Committee D02 is ASTMs largest technical committee, with nearly 2,500 members. Its also one of its oldest, founded in 1904. D02 members include representatives from across the oil industry-refining through product manufacturing-as well as original equipment manufacturers, independent laboratories, testing equipment makers, end users and others.

One goal almost all of these stakeholders share is to offer reliable test methods that manufacturers and distributors can use to help ensure the efficacy of petroleum products through end use.

Although the siren call of Disney World was ringing in my ears, I forced myself to get down to business, starting right off with the Passenger Car Engine Oil Classification Panel session. Ably chaired by Thom Smith of Valvoline, the PCEOCP is responsible for the care and feeding of the engine tests used to evaluate oils for gasoline-fueled engines, especially those used in passenger cars and light trucks.

The first order of business was to approve the use of the new Sequence VIE engine test for fuel economy measurements. This latest method is going forward to be fully developed as an ASTM standard. This is important since the previous version, the Sequence VID, is fast running out of parts. More on that in a moment.

Bill Buscher of Intertek, one of two independent test labs in San Antonio, Texas, reviewed the activity around the engine tests for ILSAC GF-6, the next gasoline engine oil upgrade. He noted that there is an ebb and flow to test stand demand, based on category development and timing. Before an engine oil category or specification such as GF-6 becomes active, testing goes on at a torrid rate as marketers get their formulations ready. Testing of candidate oils continues at a hot pace for some time after the American Petroleum Institute begins to license the products, and then, once most suppliers have their new products rolled out to the marketplace, demand for test stands drops to a lower level. So there is a saw tooth graph of testing activity over time. With GF-6 on its way, the graph is trending up.

Bill presented the slate of GF-5 and GF-6 tests and their status:

The Sequence IIIG for piston deposits and oxidation is on its last lap and will be available only until about the end of the first quarter of 2017. The Sequence IIIH, its replacement, is just ramping up and is in place.

The Sequence VG, measuring sludge and piston varnish, is good until mid-year 2017 and will be replaced by the Sequence VH. Meanwhile, a new fuel batch has been approved to keep the Sequence VG going while test development continues on the replacement test. An estimated start for the new tests precision matrix was not given, but it was ready, with four labs and three oils scheduled to take part in the test work.

The Sequence VID, for fuel economy contribution of engine oils, is virtually gone now. However, there is some work being done to stretch the supply of parts through acquisition of some General Motors engines from other labs, that for one reason or another were not calibrated. If theyre usable, there will be a few more VID test runs available and the test may survive into second-quarter 2017. The Sequence VIE and VIF (a low-viscosity grade variant) are moving into place to replace it.

The Sequence VIII (bearing corrosion and shear stability) is back on line and will be around for many more years. You may remember that there was a problem with a batch of bearings which the industry was unable to approve. That problem has been solved.

I left the Sequence IVA and IVB for last as this is a major issue. Measuring valvetrain wear, the Sequence IVA is available for the time being. However, its replacement, the Sequence IVB, is undergoing a lot of test development work. The procedure has been unreliable in showing discrimination between passing and failing oils. Many operational changes have been implemented and the precision is getting somewhat better, but no precision matrix has been run yet. The earliest possible timing for that appears to be February 2017 with results and statistical review hoped for by May.

Aside from those four tests getting full-bore replacements, GF-6 has its own set of tests that are new to the list: the Low Speed Pre-ignition test and a Chain Wear Test. The LSPI test matrix has been completed and the statistical analysis is under way. That work should be done early in 2017.

The Chain Wear Test precision matrix is also done and analysis is under way. An issue arose with differences in hardware between test labs, but that is being resolved.

The PCEOCP session also heard an interesting discussion about a reference oil (1006), which is used to establish a baseline for a number of engine tests. This is an older, GF-2 quality oil made with base stocks that are no longer available. There are 2,200 gallons in the system which should last for about two years of normal testing. A partial answer may be a new reference oil which has been developed, and which will be available for at least five years. It appears suitable for most of the tests-except for the one measuring seal swell. Well come back to that in a minute.

The term CLOG, which ironically stands for Category Life Oversight Group, was also in the spotlight. It refers to the urgent effort to see if the new engine tests described above can be adapted to support older but still-active API categories. Otherwise, viable categories like API SM and SN will expire when their tests do. Work is going on, for example, to extend the licensing of API SN Resource Conserving oils by replacing the dying Sequence VID with appropriate conditions and limits in the new VIE. Seems easy? Not so much.

After that three-hour meeting and a break for lunch, I headed into the Heavy Duty Engine Oil Classification Panel session. Shawn Whitacre from Chevron is in charge here and knows the heavy duty engine test scene very well. The meeting process is similar to the mornings, only addressing the diesel-fueled engine oil tests. And with the successful launch on Dec. 1 of API CK-4 and FA-4 oils, this was a more relaxed gathering than the light-duty side.

Participants heard that the heavy-duty Volvo/Mack tests (T-11 and T-12) are in good order as well as the Caterpillar single-cylinder tests. The Cummins ISB and ISM tests are OK as well as the Roller Follower Wear Test. Earlier heavy duty categories are still supportable with existing engine tests, so it will still be possible to get API CJ-4, CI-4 and CH-4 approvals.

Many agenda items are pertinent to both heavy duty and passenger car engine oils, and that 1006 reference oil I mentioned above was discussed in the HDEOCP meeting. The primary issue involves the seal swell test protocols.

Seal swell testing is run as a comparative test procedure. That is, the candidate oil is tested alongside a reference oil in a series of elastomer seals to see if it performs equivalent to or better under specific test conditions. However, the oil industry is used to having standalone limits (plus-or-minus some value), rather than trying to look as good as or better than a reference. A study has been under way to try to establish limits for each seal type; however, the change in seal swell with the reference over the last several years has been so drastic that it is not possible at this time. Work will continue with the goal of trying to have something in place before current quantities of 1006 are exhausted (about two years).

There is also a new test in town. The DD13 engine test, developed by Daimler North America, is now ASTM D8074. This test measures scuffing wear. Daimler itself has two new oil specifications, 93K222 that parallels API CK-4 and 93K223 for FA-4, and both require passing the DD13 scuffing wear test in addition to all the API category tests. Daimler had originally hoped to include the DD13 in CK-4 but wasnt able to finish test development in time.

One day done!

Day 2 started with the Technical Committee B meeting chaired by Joe Franklin of Intertek. Tech Committee B is the parent of both PCEOCP and HDEOCP, so much of the meeting is a review of the meetings attended yesterday. There are other groups, however, within the scope of Tech B.

One of the organizations which bridges ASTM and API is the Diesel Engine Oil Advisory Panel. One of the panels co-chairs, Steve Kennedy of ExxonMobil, was to retire at the end of 2016 and was recognized for his many years of work. The group went on to select Dan Arcy of Shell to replace him as DEOAP co-chair. Dan led the team which successfully completed the API CK-4 and FA-4 category upgrades.

Thom Smith reported on PCEOCP and noted that GF-6 is falling further behind. No first-licensing date for the new oils has been identified. However, he said, work on those tests which are available is beginning to pick up. Thom made special note of the possible Sequence VID extension plan.

Shawn Whitacre reviewed the HDEOCP meeting outcomes. As noted above, the heavy-duty engine test availability is good with the possible exception of the older Engine Oil Aeration Test which might become unavailable. However, the new Caterpillar Oil Aeration Test will alleviate that situation.

Brief reports came from Section 3 on gear oils and Section 7 on bench tests. In the latter there are ongoing issues with the reference oil 1007 used in test method D6082 for high temperature foam, which may be separating. Shake well before using!

The NOACK volatility test, D5800, has a continuing problem with severity, as Ive previously reported. Calibration tests are now run monthly versus quarterly in an effort to continue the use of this test in engine oil categories.

Tech B also heard liaison reports covering other interested groups. API reported that it had issued more than 150 CK-4/FA-4 licenses to date. It also pointed to a significant number of non-conformances to engine oil licenses, and reminded that modifications to the API 1509 rulebook are posted online at Additionally, API is working with NIST on proper labeling for transmission fluids.

The Diesel Engine Oil Advisory Panel reported that 40 percent of the CK-4/FA-4 licenses issued so far are from North America, and 60 percent are from the rest of the world.

American Chemistry Council (ACC) said it is operating on the 2010 vintage Code of Practice for additive development and test registration. Dan Pridemore of Afton is the new chairman of ACCs Product Approval Protocol Task Group, which oversees the Code. One of the Codes primary functions is the registration of all engine tests for candidate oils. Dan reported that test registrations are in line with historical test patterns.

As these hard-working meetings demonstrate, a lot of time and technical know-how go into developing and introducing engine oils, and then keeping them fit for service. Much of the work goes on behind the scenes, between general meetings like these. ASTM is the nuts-and-bolts department but API, SAE, ACC and ILSAC all have serious jobs to make this business run. A tip of the hat to all.

Industry consultant Steve Swedberg has over 40 years experience in lubricants, most notably with Pennzoil and Chevron Oronite. He is a longtime member of the American Chemical Society and SAE International, where he was chairman of Technical Committee 1 on automotive engine oils. He can be reached at steveswedberg

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Finished Lubricants