New Oil, New Cost Analysis

As the new CI-4 PLUS oil gets ready to be introduced Sept. 1, it’s most likely going to cost more than its CI-4 predecessor. But Reginald Dias, director of commercial products for ConocoPhillips Lubricants, said choosing a particular oil formulation solely on price isn’t always the best way to go.

“The cost vs. benefits evaluation cannot be made strictly on the purchase price alone,” he told Fleet Owner, in terms of selecting CI-4 Plus vs. CI-4. “For an operator, the total lubrication cost includes the purchase price and the life-cycle cost: the cost or benefits of maintenance and down time.”

Introduced in December 2001 for the new low-emission diesel engines brought to market in October 2002, CI-4 proved to be very good at handling the higher heat and soot loads generated by most of the low-emission engines on the market.

However, lubricant makers and engine OEMs found that in some cases the soot being generated by cooled EGR was much higher than expected. In addition, it was almost a different kind of soot, one that thickened the oil much more rapidly, so the oil formulation had to be altered. This led to the creation of CI-4 Plus.

Dias added that getting more capability out of a particular grade of oil – in terms of longer oil drain intervals, for example – can more than offset the higher initial purchase price.

“CI-4 Plus oil provides added protection and performance benefits not afforded by the previous generation oils,” he said. “Though the cost and benefits may not be specific or will vary depending on the equipment and type of service, [higher] pricing is often offset by the added value that comes with a higher performance product. Cost offsets may result via reduced maintenance, reduced down time, extended drain capability, reduced wear and improved engine durability.”

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