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March 16, 2016

Volume 17 Issue 52

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API Pulls Plug on ‘Energy Conserving’

The American Petroleum Institute will discontinue licensing the use of the “Energy Conserving” designation with its API SL and API SM gasoline engine oil categories. This action will be effective Dec. 30, 2016, and does not cover API SN oils that have earned the “Resource Conserving” designation – although they could be on the watch list next.

API’s decision became necessary after ASTM D02 Technical Committee B informed API that the Sequence VIB engine test used to measure Energy Conserving performance (i.e., fuel economy) is no longer available. The test, officially ASTM D6837, was based on a mid-‘90s era Ford V-8 gasoline engine that is no longer manufactured and for which spare parts cannot be had.

Once ASTM notified API of the test’s expiration, the institute declared Energy Conserving obsolete. It was simply an API licensing program decision; there was no other action needed by the API Lubricants Group. API began licensing API SL in 2000 and SM in 2004.

Among the changes which result from this action, API has ceased licensing any oil to display the Energy Conserving designation within the trademarked API Service symbol known as the “donut,” and will issue no new licenses. Any currently licensed API SL Energy Conserving or SM Energy Conserving products will remain licensed until Dec. 30. At that time, the license will be cancelled, and no oil marketer will be permitted to show the Energy Conserving designation on labels or in any marketing medium.

Photo: API

API has declared the Energy Conserving designation (left) obsolete, while the Resource Conserving designation (right) remains active.

Oils meeting API SL or API SM alone (without making Energy Conserving claims) may continue to be licensed; however, after Dec. 30, all licensees must withdraw their API SL or API SM products with the Energy Conserving designation. They can accomplish this through API’s Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System (EOLCS) online application system. In addition, the oil marketer must submit a request to license the API SL- or API SM-only product.

This action will require a great deal of attention by affected oil marketers. It will be necessary to review all active products which carry the Energy Conserving designation and begin the process of removing them from companies’ product lines and supply chains. Label and technical literature changes will be needed, as well as changes to bring websites, marketing materials and advertising media up to date.

Licenses for ILSAC GF-5 and API SN Resource Conserving oils, which were introduced in 2010, are not affected by the test’s loss. That’s because these newer categories were designed around the Sequence VID test, ASTM 7589, which originally was based on a 2009 Cadillac V6 engine from General Motors. Rather than fuel economy alone, the Sequence VID procedure also measures protection of emission systems; hence API SN oils that pass the VID are flagged in the donut as “Resource Conserving.”

However, industry voices have warned that the VID test is nearing the end of its useful life, too. The 2009 Cadillac engine is no longer built by GM, and last month it was estimated that the life of the remaining VID hardware is expected to last only until third-quarter 2016.

The replacement test for fuel economy and emissions system protection is the Sequence VIE, which is under development now, using a 2012 Cadillac engine. Once complete, it will replace the VID in supporting the API SN Resource Conserving category. The VIE test is in precision matrix testing now, but it will still need to be accepted by ASTM, ILSAC and API. So the race is on to get it in place before the Sequence VID gives out.