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September 11, 2019

Volume 2 Issue 37

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Quick Uptake Forecast for GF-6

ILSAC GF-6 will be four years late by the time it comes to market next May, but it will take little time for the industry to embrace the passenger car motor oil specification, according to a leading lubricant additive company.

An Infineum official told the Petroleum Packaging Council last week that the company expects a quick uptake of the spec, which will be used in the market as API SP.

“The North American PCMO market will likely transition quickly to ILSAC GF-6 in 2020,” said Jeff Thompson, market manager for passenger car motor oils and heavy-duty diesel oils.

The International Lubricants Standardization and Advisory Committee, which consists of U.S. and Japanese automakers, began working on GF-6 in 2012. At that time, Thompson noted, the group aimed to introduce the category in 2016, but the standard underwent numerous delays.

“The largest delay factor has been complexity,” Thompson said, adding that a record seven engine tests were developed for GF-6 – three of them new and four replacements of existing tests. “Test readiness was delayed due to multiple complications, from tests that required multiple part changes to large changes in test severity to difficult procedure creation and standardization.”

The standard was finally completed and adopted earlier this year, and commercial introduction – the date when oil suppliers are first permitted to market and sell oils licensed by the American Petroleum Institute as meeting the specification – is now scheduled for May 1 of next year.

GF-6 is the first ILSAC passenger car engine oil standard to be divided into two sequences: GF-6A and GF-6B. Both include a fuel economy requirement. GF-6A requires passing results in the Sequence VIE test, and GF-6B in the Sequence VIF test. 

In keeping with ILSAC and API protocols, the sequences have been renamed API SP for GF-6A and API SP Resource Conserving for GF-6B.

The new sequences represent a significant step forward in passenger car engine oil performance.

“ILSAC GF-6 raises the bar in most every dimension over ILSAC GF-5,” Thompson said, “offering better oxidation stability, better piston cleanliness, better wear control and improved fuel economy.” In addition it includes new tests for prevention of timing chain wear, prevention of low-speed pre-ignition and low viscosity grades.

Because they are only exclusively recommended for the latest model year vehicles at the time of commercial introduction, new oil sequences are not always picked up quickly. But Thompson predicted oil marketers will quickly begin to supply API SP and API SP R.C. oils, primarily because of the competitive nature of the passenger car motor oil market.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a category that drags,” he said during a follow-up interview. “At first allowable use stage, companies are going to roll out the new products. The way ILSAC handles the licensing and use of the starburst trademark does help move it along, but it’s mostly because the PCMO market is so competitive. As soon as one company has it, the next company wants to have it, too.”

Logistics along the supply chain also play a role in the market offering oils that meet the new sequence instead of the previous one, Thompson said. “A lot of lubricant blenders are very tank constrained, so they don’t want to continue making GF-5 along with GF-6. And it’s similar for retailers; they don’t have the shelf space to offer oils that meet two different specifications.”