Slipping ahead

Thanks to the millions of dollars and untold hours of effort on the part of an entire industry poured into creating oil-service category CJ-4 so that diesel engine oil can protect both 2007 and 2010 EPA-compliant engines, trucking may not see another API rolling its way for at least a few years. That would not displease lubricant engineers, they who sweat not oil but blood to get each oil-service

Thanks to the millions of dollars and untold hours of effort on the part of an entire industry poured into creating oil-service category CJ-4 so that diesel engine oil can protect both 2007 and 2010 EPA-compliant engines, trucking may not see another API “donut” rolling its way for at least a few years.

That would not displease lubricant engineers, they who sweat not oil but blood to get each oil-service category written and approved on time. Nor should it truck fleet managers, who have no desire to stock two, let alone three, motor oils come 2010.

No doubt the $100-million price tag on developing the API CJ-4 category has something to do with this state of affairs. Not even oil companies like spending that kind of change. And, in all fairness, to date all reports indicate that CJ-4 is a category “robust” (and that is the word used by and large by lubrication engineers) enough to fully protect the innards of both EPA '07- and EPA '10-compliant diesel engines.

On the other hand, while the effect of emission rules on oil may be clear, the impact the widening use of biodiesel fuel may have on lubricant performance is not. That issue could be addressed by a new API category or perhaps only by additional lube specs issued by specific engine makers if and when they see fit.

And there's one other take on oil going forward: The next API service category may have an international flavor by being developed as a true “global” spec.

Roger Galt, technical director for the Engine Manufacturers Assn. (EMA), says the API CJ-4 oil spec is expected to remain in place for EPA '10-compliant engines. “We are of course monitoring how it is performing in the field now, but we do not anticipate anything being specifically required for 2010.”

According to Jim McGeehan, global manager of diesel engine oil technology for Chevron Global Lubricants, and chair of the ASTM heavy-duty engine oil classification panel, the road to EPA '10-compliant engines is clear: “No one has asked for a new API category and there really is no time to produce one ahead of the new engines.

STRONG STUFF

“Our point of view,” he continues, “is CJ-4 marks a significant upgrade for diesel engine oil. As a category, it will continue to serve both 2007 and 2010 engines.”

McGeehan says the paths engine makers are expected to follow to meet the 2010 rule should place no added demands on lubricants. “Cummins says they can make it without SCR (selective catalytic reduction) by using more EGR (engine gas recirculation). Volvo and Mack, as well as Detroit Diesel, say they will use SCR, but that aftertreatment system does not put any further stress on the engine oil.”

He does point out that once more ‘'07-compliant and then '10-compliant engines enter service in the years ahead, trucking will gain experience with DPFs (diesel particulate filters) and that may influence future lubricant test requirements set by engine makers.

“As we stand now, CJ-4 looks pretty good for 2010,” remarks Mark Betner, Citgo's manager of heavy-duty products. “We know that it's a stronger category than CI-4 Plus and see it as having no weaknesses” going forward to 2010.

Betner points out that since “almost 60% of fleets elected to postpone purchases of 2007 engines, CJ-4 oil is still only 5% of the market. With that slow uptake of new equipment it's hard to have the field performance basis to decide what changes, if any, would be needed. We are trying above all to avoid a three-oil market. We are looking at just a bit over a year to make modifications [to CJ-4] but we're not likely to see more soot loading [with 2010 engines] so changes are unlikely.”

“CJ-4 is the most robust engine oil technology we have ever seen,” says Steven Goodier, director of technology for BP Lubricants, which produces BP and Castrol brand oil. “We're not yet seeing a need for a new oil or we'd be working on it by now. CJ-4 oils are very high-performing fluids that are expected to cope with any added changes to engine hardware for 2010.”

Volvo Powertrain North America, which supplies engines to sister companies Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA) and Mack Trucks, is already seeing some of its engines designed to be 2010-compliant in field-service testing by VTNA.

According to Greg Shank, Volvo Powertrain's manager of engine product development and responsible for fluid technology, 2010 “for us means [the addition of] SCR and SCR for all practical purposes is relatively oil-neutral. That's why we think CJ-4 should be acceptable for 2010 engines.

GREEN ALERT

“However,” continues Shank, who serves as chair of the EMA Lubricants Committee, “the unknown for any oil spec today is the effect of fueling engines with biodiesel. A complicating factor is that there are different types of biodiesel. It's possible it could be determined there's a need for an oil that is biodiesel-compatible. That may not require drafting a new API category. We are on a learning curve and right now we are still in the ‘just looking’ stage of this issue, although the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) has agreed to fund some tests.”

The reason biodiesel will most likely drive heavy-duty oil developments going forward is, simply put, because it is by no means a direct replacement for the petroleum-derived diesel (petrodiesel, to be exact) that truckers have known and loved ever since Clessie L. Cummins rolled out the Model H truck engine in the 1930s.

Biodiesel can be made from plant- or animal-based extracts. Generally speaking, though, biodiesel for trucks refers to a blended fuel made from a combination of those plant or animal extracts and petrodiesel. Pure biodiesel is designated B100, but its solvent properties make it too harsh for use as a direct substitute for petrodiesel. Another issue with biodiesel is that its qualities can be affected by the specific plant- or animal-based extracts used in producing it.

For these reasons, most heavy-duty engine makers right now prefer that only a B5 blend — 95% petrodiesel — be used.

However, it should be noted that earlier this year Cummins approved biodiesel B20 blends for use in its 2002 and later (including 2007) emissions-compliant ISX, ISM, ISL, ISC and ISB engines.

According to Cummins, it “upgraded” its previous position — which limited the use to B5 blends only-for these reasons: the American Society of Testing Materials' fuel spec ASTM D6751 added an important stability specification for B100 biodiesel; the availability of quality fuels from BQ-9000 Certified Marketers and Accredited Producers is growing rapidly; and the engine maker itself has “completed the necessary testing and evaluations to ensure customers can reliably operate their equipment with confidence using B20 fuel.”

The National Biodiesel Board itself seems most comfortable recommending using blends up to B20, stating that: “Pure biodiesel (B100) has a solvent effect, which may release deposits accumulated on tank walls and pipes from previous diesel fuel use. With high blends of biodiesel, the release of deposits may clog filters initially and precautions should be taken to replace fuel filters until the petroleum build-up is eliminated. This issue is less prevalent with B20 blends, and there is no evidence that lower-blend levels such as B2 have caused filters to plug.”

The source of the bio in the biodiesel blend is also at issue. Diesel engine makers have also weighed in on this. For example, Detroit Diesel recommends using biodiesel “made from soybean or rapeseed oil through the proper transesterification reaction process… other feedstock sources such as animal fat and used cooking oil are not recommended.”

UP IN THE AIR

That's a mouthful, and other engine makers offer similar qualifications on biodiesel use.

For its part, the NBB has asked government agencies to adopt fuel quality standards for biodiesel and enforce them. Currently, half of the states have adopted the ASTM D-6751 specification as part of their fuel quality regulations. An additional 13 states plan to adopt the specification or are studying it, while 10 states now proactively test biodiesel or biodiesel blends.

With all that up in the air, clean as it may be, no wonder lubrication engineers are thinking they may have to look long and hard at the potential impact of biodiesel, in all its blends and all its sources, on heavy-duty motor oil requirements.

Concurring with Volvo Powertrain's Shank, EMA's Galt reports that “engines fueled with biodiesel blends is something we are investigating. Higher blends do bring up the issue of fuel dilution of the lubricant — you end up with engine oil with fuel mixed in.” He says this happens to some degree with all diesel engines, but is more pronounced with higher blends of biodiesel.

“However,” he continues, “we do not have an active program under way to develop a new [API] category. We're trying to ascertain what, if anything, would have to be done. Generally, we know truck operators running higher biodiesel blends are being advised by our [engine maker] members to run a more conservative drain interval.”

Galt says EMA's goal is to “stay ahead of the learning curve” for biodiesel's impact on engines. “Hopefully, by staying on top of this, we can eventually move to higher blend approvals [by all engine makers] up to, say, B20 eventually. We continue to look at both fuel and lubricant and their interaction with the engine.”

Citgo's Betner says that as biodiesel gains traction in the market, lube suppliers may have to address whether “going beyond B5 blends impacts the durability of oil.”

“The increase in demand for biodiesel is being watched very closely,” remarks BP's Goodier. “And it's possible there may eventually be a slight modification within the CJ-4 category to address this.” He says the key thing to bear in mind is that “biodiesel can be very variable due to multiple [feedstock] sources. Each type can have unique properties. So the impact of biodiesel depends on its quality and its blend — B5, B20 or higher. At the B5 level, we don't expect an impact, but moving above that can affect oil drain intervals.”

“CJ-4 is a very robust category,” says Chevron's McGeehan, “but an engine maker may decide at a certain point that they have an issue with the use of biodiesel and put in a [lubricant] test to address that [which oil suppliers would have to meet].

“Cummins says they have engines approved for B20,” he continues. “In Europe, diesel contains 5% biodiesel and we may see that here eventually. Biodiesel's full impact on the lubricant remains unknown and there have been no signals sent yet by engine makers for any new category here.”

On top of that, McGeehan points out that “in total the industry has spent $100 million to deliver the CJ-4 category, so unless there is some driving demand there is unlikely to be a new API category soon.”

And he concedes that given a few more years of experience with DPFs in actual service, engine makers “would have the ability to say they want the oil tweaked to [better protect] the DPF. That could result in additional tests [within the CJ-4 category].”

McGeehan, however, has his eye on another prize. He relates that he along with co-authors from Volvo and International will soon present a technical paper in Europe that will argue for preparing by 2012 a single global oil category for on/off-highway “global engine platforms.”

He notes that, in this context, he is presenting his own perspective that, thanks to both ultra-low-sulfur fuel and DPF technology, emission standards around the world are drawing closer, making it possible and desirable to produce a single oil service category.

“CJ-4 will continue unchanged for 2010,” McGeehan sums up, “and by the time we get to 2012 there will be a more defined level of biodiesel in use so that can be addressed.”

At least until then it looks like the biggest issue for fleet owners will be whether or not to run the newer CJ-4 oil in their pre-'07 engines. But they would be wise to also keep an eye on the effect any biodiesel they run could have on oil performance.

Making a donut

Once upon a time rolling out a new API (American Petroleum Institute) oil-service classification — known as a “donut” for the circle in which its designation is inscribed on packaging — was something of a watershed event.

But when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began clamping down hard on diesel emissions in the '90s, the oil industry was forced to whip up new donuts at an increasingly faster clip.

The latest API classification for heavy-duty diesel engines, CJ-4, is now in effect for EPA '07-compliant engines and all indications are it will serve as well for EPA '10-compliant engines.

API ultimately licenses oil companies to display service classifications such as CJ-4 on the packaging of qualified products.

But it's the American Society of Testing & Materials (ASTM) committee on heavy-duty engine oil classification that sets the limits and verifies the testing used to develop each new classification.

According to the chairman of that committee, Jim McGeehan, ChevronTexaco's global manager of diesel engine oil technology, each time the need for a new oil classification is determined the panel works to complete the spec so that oil licensed under a new API category can reach the field before engines actually require it.

Of course in the case of an oil spec aimed at engines fueled by biodiesel, a specific date (such as those tied to emission rules) may not be a factor — although both marketers and end users would probably agree they'd want it the day before yesterday.

Once the ASTM committee completes the requirements for oil to meet a new service category, the API licensing process kicks in. Seeking to ensure a level playing field, API has in the past kept a new donut off all oil packaging for one year. This gives smaller-scale oil suppliers the opportunity to catch up with their major competitors in reformulating product to the new spec.

To the well

More technical information is available from these and other diesel engine oil suppliers:

BP
http://www.bp.com/sectiongenericarticle.do?categoryId=6122003&contentId=6002968

Chevron
http://chevron.com/productsservices/lubricants/

Citgo
http://citgo.com/Fleets.jsp

ConocoPhillips
http://lubricants.conocophillips.com/content/about.asp

ExxonMobil
http://www.mobil.com/USA-English/Lubes/Products_Services/Lubricants/Mobil_Delvac_Home.asp

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