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June 8, 2018

Volume 7 Issue 3

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India’s Emissions Standard Brings Challenges

MUMBAI – India’s implementation of Bharat Stage VI automobile emissions standards will result in a shift towards better quality base oils, but the industry remains under pressure to meet the tight deadline of April 2020, experts said at an industry event recently held here.

The country – one of the largest automobile markets in the world – has a number of platforms and automobiles that range from micro light commercial vehicles to 49-ton vehicles, said Y.P. Rao, chief technology officer at Gulf Oil International. Getting a portfolio of oils to market – finding space for different products, all in the right sizing and the right packaging – in a cost-effective manner is a major challenge, he added.

The new standard won’t take effect for two years, but time is already running tight, partly because vehicle manufacturers are still developing designs that will meet emissions limits – designs that will also dictate lubrication requirements. Original equipment manufacturers “are still kind of struggling to put the prototype engines and vehicles on the road for testing,” Rao told attendees at the ICIS Indian Base Oils and Lubricants Conference in April.

India plans to leapfrog from the current Bharat Stage IV automobile emissions standard directly to BS VI in April 2020, skipping BS V to tackle the nation’s worsening air pollution. BS VI is equivalent to the European Union’s Euro 6 standard and is expected to force engine design changes that require more advanced engine oils.

Rao said the country has made progress in writing the fuel specifications that must accompany the emissions standards. The Bureau of Indian Standards revised the standards on petrol and diesel in January to make them compatible with BS VI.

S.S.V. Ramakumar, director of research and development at government-owned Indian Oil Corp. Ltd., said refiners have technologies to do their part to meet BS VI norms but that time and availability of space at refineries are the key challenges. He noted that upgrading a refinery to produce BS VI grade fuels has taken precedence over upgrading a base oil plant.

The April 2020 deadline for national implementation of BS VI grade fuels was moved up to April 1, 2018, for the National Capital Territory of Delhi due to extremely hazardous levels of air pollution in the city.

Bengt Otterholm, lubricants coordinator at Volvo Group Trucks Technology, said it will be tough for vehicle manufacturers to meet BS VI requirements by 2020, even though the technology is available. “How can we do it in a cost-effective way so it’s accepted in a relatively cost-sensitive market in India? That may be the biggest challenge for us,” he noted.

Ramakumar stated the friction modifier additive chemistry plays a very significant role for retaining the fuel economy through lubricants, but that the market currently depends too much on molybdenum. “There is a need for developing [chemistries] other than moly chemistry friction modifier,” he added.

Gulf Oil’s Rao said India’s market will shift towards API Group II and Group III base oils to accommodate BS VI and to meet fuel economy demands. He said 5W-30 grade would be appropriate for passenger car motor oil.

Ramakumar noted that more OEMs are talking about 0W-20 grade, and said this will require greater use of Group III. That means even more dependence on imported base oils because India produces little of that grade. The country already imports about 2.5 million t/y of base oils from South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Spain, the United States, Bahrain, Iran and Saudi Arabia, among others.

India has four plants with combined capacity of 1.2 million metric tons per year. Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd. has 42 percent of this capacity, Indian Oil 22 percent, Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd. 19 percent and Chennai Petroleum Corp. Ltd. 17 percent. Group I base stocks account for about 60 percent of domestic capacity, and the remainder is Group II and III.

Two-wheelers, which account for 80 percent of automobiles in India, will be heavily impacted by BS VI, according to Harjeet Singh, executive advisor – technical at India’s largest two-wheeler maker, Hero MotoCorp Ltd. Until now, the country’s emission norms for two-wheelers set combined limits for hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide. The government took this approach in order to allow OEMs to retain fuel efficiency since motorcycles here are used mainly for commuting purposes.

“Indian two-wheeler engines are lean burn, hence the most fuel efficient in the world,” he said, “but BS VI will have a major adverse impact on [fuel economy] as NOx is very low. Hence engines have to be calibrated to stoichiometric ratio,” Singh said in his presentation. He added that the BS VI gasoline octane number continues to be 91, compared to 95 octane in the EU, and therefore, a low-hanging solution to recover fuel economy is not available.

The industry is also facing challenges because on-board diagnostics (OBD) will come to two-wheelers for the first time with BS VI implementation, Singh said. He stated that due to the large volume of two-wheelers and upgrading of the supply chain, the industry needs development time, as ready-made solutions are not available even in the EU.