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January 16, 2019

Volume 3 Issue 4

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ACC Offers GF-6 Timeline, Relaxed Limits

An American Chemistry Council committee proposed a plan last week for the ILSAC GF-6 passenger car engine oil category to be completed and brought to market by the second quarter of 2020, which has been a stated goal of North American car suppliers, but the proposal entailed setting limits for several tests at levels that would be less stringent than automakers have asked.

Officials with the Product Approval Protocol Task Group, which represents lubricant additive companies, did not rule out of the possibility that oils fulfilling more stringent performance desires of automakers could be developed – thus enabling a more demanding oil specification – but they maintained that doing so would take more time and would thus push first licensing of GF-6 deeper into next year, at least.

“Based on what we know today, this [proposal] is what ACC members believe can be demonstrated and allow ILSAC GF-6 to be delivered by 2Q 2020,” said a PAPTG spokesperson.

Panel members noted that a few other GF-6 hurdles still remain, primarily the resolution of problems involving a key wear test, the Sequence IVB, and the setting of guidelines for base oil interchange and viscosity grade read-across.

Automakers are expected to respond to the proposal later this month.

PAPTG’s proposal came in the shape of a one-page update about the technical demonstration program for GF-6, released Jan. 7 by the American Petroleum Institute to the Automotive Oil Advisory Panel, which represents all stakeholders responsible for finishing the oil category and setting a timeline for bringing it to market. The tech demo program began July 1, 2018 after the oil, additive and automotive industries finished developing the various tests that constitute the substance of the specification and proposed pass-fail limits for each of them with the exception of the Sequence IVB. The program has several purposes, including giving oil formulators a chance to develop products that can meet the draft performance requirements and/or determining the limits they can achieve.

The PAPTG document was a consensus position by members for each test in the proposed specification, the much-delayed next passenger car motor oil standard for North America.

The document lists each test and key test parameter, the current GF-5 specification limits where applicable and the limits proposed by ILSAC (the International Lubricants Standardization and Approval Committee) for GF-6 in all the new tests. It also lists limits that ACC members believe they can achieve given the work that has been done to date. The key message is that providing there are no surprises, additive companies are confident that the technical demonstration period can completed by July 1 if stakeholders accept the limits proposed by ACC.

The standard process for bringing new categories to market calls for a 12-month waiting period, which would set first allowable use of GF-6 at July 1, 2020. That timeline has in a few cases been condensed to nine months, and doing so again could advance first licensing to April 1, 2020, the date requested by ILSAC.

For some tests, including the Sequence VG, the Sequence VIII and the new Sequence IX test for prevention of low-speed pre-ignition, which was developed for API SN Plus, ILSAC proposed GF-6 limits that would be unchanged from GF-5.  The sequence IIIHA and IIIHB tests for used oil pumpability and phosphorus retention respectively are also unchanged from GF-5.  For the Sequence IIIH, ILSAC had proposed a 33 percent improvement in oxidation protection and a 22 percent improvement in piston deposit protection. ACC agreed to the oxidation improvement but countered with a more modest improvement of approximately 10 percent in piston deposit protection. 

Timeline calendar photo

Brian Jackson/Alamy Stock Photo

An American Chemistry Council committee proposed a plan last week for the ILSAC GF-6 passenger car engine oil category to be completed and brought to market by the second quarter of 2020

ACC proposed a slightly less stringent limit on the Sequence X test for chain wear – a maximum of 0.09 percent stretch in chain length versus 0.085 percent, to allow for test variability and proposed more relaxed limits for the Sequence IVB. The revised IVB still needs to be validated with new formula technologies, and it appears that the additive companies wanted to be a little conservative on what they agree to.

The area that will likely garner the most discussion concerns limits for the Sequence VIE and VIF tests for fuel economy. ILSAC proposed ratcheting them by 27 to 55 percent depending on SAE grade whether testing for initial or retained fuel economy improvement. ACC proposed more modest improvements ranging from approximately 11 percent to approximately 20 percent for the various VIE and VIF parameters.

It should also be noted that additive companies made significant changes to their technologies to deliver LSPI protection, which was initially developed for GF-6 but was then delivered via API SN Plus, a supplemental category brought to market last year. Engine protection and fuel economy improvement is a careful balance since some additives that improve protection can be a debit for fuel economy.

The PAPTG spokesperson cautioned more work needs to be done to allow the waiting period to be determined.

“We still need to recognize that there is still much work to do be done by the [Base Oil Interchange/Viscosity Grade Read Across] Task Force including finalizing and validating the Sequence IVB given all the changes made by the surveillance panel to ensure capability of the test. The work by BOI/VGRA around IIIH BOI and VGRA and potential to use a Single Technology Matrix is also going to be critical to understand if the mandatory waiting period can be shortened from the scheduled 12 months.”

Asked what would happen if ILSAC insists on sticking to the original limits for fuel economy and other parameters, PAPTAG said additive companies would continue to work on the technology but could not commit to any alternate schedule at this time. A further update on BOI/VGRA issues and the Sequence IVB should be available this month.