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November 7, 2018

Volume 1 Issue 46

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ACEA Use of ILSAC Tests Draws Concerns

Organizations involved in the development of North American engine oil specifications have expressed concerns about European plans to use several engine tests in the upcoming ACEA 2018 Oil Sequences, warning that dual use could sap testing resources and shorten the lives of the oil categories.

The concerns were raised during an October meeting of the API Lubricant Standards Group and in subsequent letters to ATC, the Technical Committee of Petroleum Additive Manufacturers in Europe, which helps coordinate the development of ACEA lubricant specifications. Individuals participating in the North American process suggested a backlog for test stands could develop if lubricant marketers have to undergo the same tests for ACEA 2018 as for ILSAC GF-6, the next passenger car motor oil specification being developed in North America. They said equipment used for those tests could also get used up sooner than normal.

“Some of the engines used in these tests are out of production, and the inventory of engines and parts held by the labs and parts distributors are the only parts available for these tests, and … additional parts cannot be produced,” Ford Motor Co.’s Ron Romano, chairman of the International Lubricants Standardization and Advisory Committee, wrote in an Oct. 17 letter to ATC President Ian Wilby. “Supporting both programs could quickly deplete the existing inventories and shorten the length of both categories considerably.”

Kevin Ferrick, manager of the American Petroleum Institutes’ Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System, also sent a letter to Wilby. He and Romano invited ACEA (the European Association of Automobile Manufacturers) and ATIEL (the technical association for the European lubricants industry) to meet with API and ILSAC representatives by conference call or in person, possibly at the semi-annual ASTM meeting scheduled to be held in Atlanta Dec. 10-14.

ACEA and ATC representatives could not be reached for comment by deadline, but an ATIEL official said the European groups are weighing the concerns raised across the Atlantic.

“It is the intention of ACEA to introduce some of these tests in the next ACEA specifications,” ATIEL General Secretary Susan Hancock told Lube Report. She added that European organizations are discussing both the best course of action and whether to delay the launch of ACEA 2018, which was scheduled to occur before the end of this year. “We understand the need to ensure hardware and test availability for the lifetime of the category and the concern for ASTM.”

GF-6 and ACEA 2018 are on different timelines for coming to market. GF-6 has been much delayed, and automakers are currently aiming for first licensing of the category to begin during the second quarter of 2020, though some speculate it will be postponed at least until the fourth quarter of that year. The new ACEA sequences were due to be launched by the end of this year, but some now speculate they will be delayed because North American tests that the Europeans planned to use are not yet finished.

The number of North American tests being considered for ACEA 2018 would represent an unprecedented level of overlap between the two organizations, which generally develop their own tests. ACEA officials have said their 2018 sequences could include the Sequence IVB test for cam wear, the Sequence IX test for low-speed pre-ignition and the Sequence X test for chain wear, all developed for GF-6, which is being split into GF-6A and GF-6B. In addition, attendees at the Oct. 11 API Lubricants Group meeting said ACEA is also considering using the Sequence VH and Sequence VIE sludge prevention and fuel economy tests that were developed for previous ILSAC categories and which are also part of GF-6.

The ACEA and ILSAC categories, along with ILSAC’s companion API sequences, are among the world’s most widely used engine oil standards. Shortening test life is a serious issue for all of the organizations, considering the complexity of developing categories, not to mention the time and money that is invested to approve new engine oil formulations to support North American and European automakers.

In their letters to ATC, Ferrick and Romano noted that pass/fail limits have yet to be set for some of the tests that ACEA has considered using. API is now in the midst of the technical demonstration period, which checks whether proposed limits measure oil performance in the ways that industry intends, and that work is not scheduled to be completed for at least nine to 12 months.

“Our understanding is that the test limits in the draft GF-6 specification are being considered as test limits in the ACEA sequences,” Romano wrote. “Please understand that the draft test limits have not been finalized and this will be done after the Technology Demonstration period, presently in progress. This will happen sometime next year.”

In addition, the Sequence IVB test still has issues that could impact the GF-6 schedule, even though it has already been accepted into the category. Observers said the new Ford chain wear test might be suitable for both categories once limits are established and base oil interchange and viscosity grade read-across rules are put in place to understand its impact on category life and concurrent product development programs. If BOI rules minimize required testing, then use by both categories may be feasible. This would likely be the case for the Sequence IX.

Ferrick and Romano also cited concerns specific to some tests. They noted that the Sequence VIE test for fuel economy is based on the U.S. fuel economy test cycle and therefore may not be suitable to replace the M111FE test currently used to represent European fuel economy needs. Availability of test parts for both the Sequence VIE and VH were also cited as a more severe concern. There is a finite number of engines available to the run the Sequence VIE before a new test needs to be developed. The Sequence VH uses a special fuel that is difficult to reproduce, and additional use of the test could accelerate depletion of its finite supply.

In sum, it appears that only the Ford LSPI test using API SN plus limits would be ready to go now for ACEA 2018 and likely not impact GF-6 or ACEA 2018 product development or category life.

“The API Lubricant Standards Group and its various groups and task forces are actively monitoring test availability to ensure that the tests last for the duration of the proposed ILSAC and API standards,” Ferrick wrote. “If ACEA is planning to use some of these tests in the ACEA 2018 Sequences, the API groups will need to factor this into their planning.”