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December 19, 2018

Volume 3 Issue 4

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Mexico Ups Motor Oil Standards

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey – Starting next year, passenger car and heavy-duty diesel engine oils sold in Mexico will be required to meet standards that minimize oil degradation, reduce emissions and increase drain intervals. The certification comes at a time when the Latin American country aims to keep unprofessional players off the market.

NOM-116-SCFI-2018 sets the specifications and test methods that lubricants must comply with to be used in gasoline and diesel engines, in addition to the information that must be included in the labels of individual containers, Jorge Loya, founder and CEO of Raloy Lubricantes, said at the ICIS Pan American Base Oils & Lubricants Conference here in late November.

Photo: Abalcazar/iStock

Traffic circles the Diana the Huntress Fountain in Mexico City, Mexico. Starting next year, passenger car and heavy-duty diesel engine oils sold in Mexico will be required to meet standards that minimize oil degradation, reduce emissions and increase drain intervals.

Lubricant companies are required to use test methods from ASTM International to measure base number, phosphorus content, foaming tendency, evaporation loss, pumpability, cold-crank viscosity and viscosity index of engine oils. A certified laboratory must issue an approved quality certificate to back up whichever claims manufacturers make about formulation, base oil type and engine test support, said Loya.

In addition, it will be mandatory to obtain a Mexican certification of quality through the domestic government agencies and validate equivalent categories to those from the American Petroleum Institute, he added. Companies with approvals from API, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association and original equipment manufacturers must have their engine tests validation documents and information submitted by their additive manufacturers.

The labels on the motor oil containers must list all of the necessary technical information, including generic name (whether an oil is for gasoline engines, multigrade or synthetic, for example), API service category, SAE viscosity grade and net content for containers up to 19 liters. Loya added that the back label of the product should have API usage recommendations, environmental abiding statements and whether the product was made by a company for its own brand or toll-blended for a distributor.

This norm responds to original equipment manufacturer specifications for engine oils. “The use of lubricants not recommended by automakers results in detriments to end users, the environment and energy consumption,” reads the framework of the legislation spearheaded by Mexico’s Secretariat of Economy in collaboration with other government agencies.

Lubricant manufacturing and additive companies’ subsidiaries in Mexico – including those of Afton Chemical, Bardahl, Castrol, ExxonMobil, Infineum and Lubrizol – also provided input for the certification.

The Mexican lubricants market had total volume of 839,000 metric tons in 2018, said Loya, citing numbers from RRG Consultoria. The main applications segment is automotive, with passenger car motor oils and heavy-duty diesel motor oils holding 49 percent and 23 percent of market volume, respectively.

Most passenger cars in Mexico use API SN or SM category oils (60 percent), followed by API SJ and SL (37 percent) and API SF and SH (3 percent), the latter two being considered obsolete by API. On the heavy-duty side, 52 percent of vehicles use API CI-4 and CJ-4 oils, followed by API CF and CF-2 – which are obsolete – at 32 percent and then the most recent heavy-duty categories, API CK-4 and FA-4, at 10 percent.

The use of obsolete engine oil categories could be attributed to the age of the car parc in Mexico. The average age of a passenger car is 12 years, while the age of trucks, buses and other heavy-duty vehicles is nearly 18 years on average, said Loya.

The lubricants market in Mexico is also very competitive, with over 150 lubricant brands from both oil majors and local companies. The combined market share for companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell, Mexicana de Lubricantes, Raloy, Chevron, Lubral and Bardahl is 82 percent, with the remaining 18 percent made up of smaller blenders, according to Raloy Lubricantes’ internal research.

However, Loya pointed out that there is also unfair competition from market players that sell finished lubricants blended from alternative base oils not approved by original equipment manufacturers and which do not meet API standards. “Some foreign raw material suppliers are nowadays present in the Mexican market, offering low specification materials that let unprofessional companies compete” with legitimate lube manufacturers, he said.

Initially drafted in 2017, NOM-116-SCFI-2018 is scheduled to be published in the first quarter of 2019 and will be effective 180 calendar days after publication, meaning enforcement will likely start in the fourth quarter, Loya noted.