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January 17, 2020

Volume 7 Issue 8

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Quality of Indian Lubes Rising for BS VI

India’s automotive engine oil market will be taking a step up in coming months as suppliers prepare for the nation’s implementation of the Bharat Stage VI vehicular emissions standard.

The formulation technology for new crankcase lubes will largely be imported from other more developed markets and will require more expensive base stocks and chemical additives.

Suppliers will need to meet the requirement of new automobile engines necessitated by the government’s move to implement stringent emissions standards.

“Bharat Stage VI is similar to the most stringent emissions requirements in the western world, especially North America and Europe,” Philip Reeve, director at the United Kingdom-based ADLU Consultancy, said recently in a webinar, organized by Mumbai-based Rosefield DAA International Consultancy LLP.

BS VI is equivalent to the European Union’s Euro 6 standard and will require changes in engine design of vehicles sold in India. Those new engines will require more advanced engine oils. India is scheduled to jump from the existing BS IV automobile emissions standards to BS VI in April in an attempt to accelerate its fight against local air pollution and global warming.

A spokesperson at ExxonMobil told Lube Report that the industry has so far focused on either fuel economy or extended oil drain intervals by using lubricant technology, but with BS VI the lubricant technology will see major changes in formulations to respond to new engine designs that come along with the new emission norms. ADLU’s Reeve concurred. He said the new norms will lead to more formulations in lubricants that are low in sulphated ash, phosphorus and sulfur – collectively referred to as SAPS – as well as lower viscosity to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions.

Rajesh Madathingal, technology head at Castrol India Ltd., said that performance additives are used in BS VI lubricants with enhanced oxidation stability and wear control, compared to earlier generation lubricants. “Lower SAPS in BS VI lubricants help improve the longevity of the exhaust aftertreatment devices, which helps the durability of the emission system,” he told Lube Report in an email.

“Most of the multinational companies have got the formulations ready for the other markets, so the same things will be used here with some modifications considering local factors such as weather,” said Ashish Navalkar, deputy general manager of supply chain at Gulf Oil Lubricants India Ltd.

Kedar Apte, vice president of marketing at Castrol India, said the transition to BS VI norms is a journey that the company began a few years ago, learning and extracting relevant insights from its global experiences in implementation of the Euro 6 standard in Europe. “Leveraging these insights, we optimized BS VI-ready products, keeping in mind the unique challenges that India presents, including road and traffic conditions,” he noted.

Reeve said the cost for lubricants that meet BS VI requirements will go up because additives that go into low SAPS formulations will be expensive. That’s due to the cost of replacing a relatively cheap component, zinc dithiophosphate, with a more expensive antioxidant. “Also, when you tend to go low viscosity, you tend to use high quality base oils. So, Group II and Group III base oils would be required for those kinds of oils, and obviously the cost of Group III base stocks is going to be more expensive than the cost of Group I,” he noted.

Gulf Oil Lubricants’ Managing Director Ravi Chawla had earlier told local media that the lubricant production cost will likely increase by 10 percent to 15 percent because of the need for better quality base oils and higher-grade additives. He added that the company will pass on the cost increase to the end consumers.

Castrol’s technology head offered a different take, saying that his company’s prices will not increase. “We have been able to manage to control our costs and hence been able to keep prices of our BS VI lubricant range same or similar in most cases,” he added.

The ExxonMobil spokesperson said that until now the level of lubricant technology used in India has mostly been at the lower end of the spectrum but that it will take a significant step up after implementation of BS VI. The transition will take a number of years since initially most of the vehicle parc will not need the new lubes. BS VI products will be backward compatible.

“Our automotive lubricants for BS VI engines in general are backward compatible,” Madathingal said, adding that Castrol lubricants for BS VI use superior quality base stock with lower evaporation loss, which contribute to lower emissions and less carbon footprint.

“Castrol is the first lubricant company in India to be ready with its BS VI range of lubricants,” Apte claimed. He noted that several Castrol power brands are part of its BS VI ready portfolio, including two-wheeler, passenger car and commercial vehicle engine oils.

Industry insiders said launches of BS VI-compliant lubricants should accelerate in the coming months. India’s finished lubricants market is the world’s third-largest and is dominated by three national oil companies – Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd., Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd. and Indian Oil Corp. Ltd. – as well as several private players, including BP’s Castrol India, Gulf Oil Lubricants and Tide Water Oil Co. (India).

“We see more specialized lubricants evolving to cater to specific consumer demands post BS VI,” the ExxonMobil spokesperson said.

Apte said the transition to BS VI doesn’t end with the lubricant products, and it is important to include key stakeholders, such as the mechanic community, to gear up for this change and help them understand changing automotive technology. “As part of our awareness and education programs, mechanic training related to this key transition is underway, and we plan to reach 250,000 mechanics nationally,” he said.

Heavy traffic in New Delhi

Photo: Alexey Panferov/Alamy

Heavy traffic in New Delhi, India. India is scheduled to jump from the existing Bharat Stage IV automobile emissions standards to BS VI in April in an attempt to accelerate its fight against local air pollution and global warming.