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December 21, 2016

Volume 17 Issue 52

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GF-6 Faces Two-year Lag

Many attending the Auto-Oil Advisory Panel meeting earlier this month in Orlando, Florida, were braced for unpleasant news, but the reality was still sobering: The panel, which is managing the development and introduction of the ILSAC GF-6 passenger car engine oil upgrade, heard that it may take until May 2019 to get the products to market.

The original target for GF-6 was to have been January 2017, but the demands of concurrently developing a new heavy-duty engine oil category--API CK-4 and FA-4, which launched this month—slowed the pace of work on GF-6, while costs and testing issues piled up. Step by step, the first allowable date for licensing by the American Petroleum Institute kept sliding due to engine test development delays.

At the AOAP session in early December, which was held in conjunction with the twice-yearly meeting of ASTM Committee D02, much of the discussion revolved around the progress of new engine sequence tests for GF-6.

Ron Romano of Ford discussed his company’s contributions to the engine test lineup.  The Sequence VH test for wear, sludge and varnish is ready to undergo a precision matrix and will start by January.  Ford’s proposed Chain Wear Test has completed matrix testing and after some differences in hardware were corrected, the data are now being analyzed to determine the test’s future. The Low Speed Pre-ignition Test, also new, has completed matrix testing and the statisticians will begin working on the data.

New fuel economy tests are also shaping up, Greg Miranda of Lubrizol related. Miranda chairs the Sequence VI Surveillance Panel, and said that the new Sequence VIE test, based on a General Motors V-6 engine, is approved and on line. There are about 500 short-block engines ready for installation at testing laboratories, with another 400 not yet shipped. In addition, 900 more engine sets are being assembled, all of which assures the test will be available for many years.

A variant of this test, the Sequence VIF, also has completed its precision matrix and is undergoing statistical analysis of the data, Miranda added. Based on the same GM V-6, this test method is specifically designed to evaluate very low viscosity engine oils (e.g. SAE 0W-16) which were not a part of the VIE matrix.

More perilously, the fuel economy test they replace, the Sequence VID, is rapidly approaching the end of its lifetime. Based on an engine that GM no longer makes, realistically this test method could run out sometime in January. Some additional engines were recently located, and if they can be successfully calibrated for testing, it’s possible that up to 80 additional runs could be made, pushing the end out to second-quarter 2017, Miranda advised.

The AOAP also heard that the Sequence IIIH test for wear and oil thickening, based on a Chrysler Pentastar engine, has been accepted and was set to be balloted for an ASTM procedure number. The ballot was withdrawn for editorial reasons but will be re-balloted as soon as possible.

The major delay now in completing GF-6 is the Sequence IVB valve train wear test, which uses a 4-cylinder Toyota engine; its predecessor, the Sequence IVA, used a Nissan 4-cylinder engine. The first precision matrix on the Sequence IVB failed to provide discrimination between passing and failing reference oils.  The problems are due in large part to hardware, engine design and test stand layout.  There are also questions about how the reference oils respond as the test has been modified to seek discrimination.

Bill Buscher of Intertek, who is the Sequence IVB team leader, led a lengthy discussion of this situation. There will be another six-test precision matrix run on two oils in four labs, he said. It should start in January and be completed with data analyzed by May. If this matrix works, all of the essential engine tests will be in place.

The oil development process then calls for a one-year technology demonstration. However, the technical demonstration period cannot start until all tests are finalized and accepted.  During this time period, AOAP can move to approve the GF-6 specification. Once that occurs, the clock starts on an API mandatory one-year waiting period before first licensure date, which gives marketers an equal chance to pass the tests and prepare their products for market.

Given those remaining steps, AOAP Chairman Scott Lindholm, of Shell, projected that May 2019 is likely to be the first license date. There is always the possibility that one or more steps can be compressed somewhat, but at this writing it is unlikely that GF-6 will appear in the market before 2019.