CJ-4: Progress, but at What Price?

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As the CJ-4 oil qualification and OEM engine tests near completion – the new Proposed Category 10 oil under development for the 2007 low-emission on-road diesel engines will officially be called API CJ-4 on October 15, 2006 – oil manufacturers and OEMs are talking with more certainty about what users most want to know: oil drain intervals and backward compatibility. And price? Well, they’re getting there.

Some fleets might record a lower net cost with CJ-4 if drain intervals can be extended beyond those of current CI-4 oils, but this will depend on their engine OEMs and the recommended drain intervals each sets, the type of driving and the loads. “You could end up with an application with higher soot loads, caused by increased engine loads or a lot of idling time,” says Mark Spong, Ryder’s Canadian national maintenance manager.

“What we are seeing in the field is that CJ-4 is performing better than CI-4, but the drain intervals are [not yet established]. CJ-4 has improved oxidation stability, better soot control and wear protection versus a multitude of CI-4 candidates we are testing,” says Lenore Indarsingh, lubricants category manager, commercial sales and marketing, Shell Canada Products.

The 2007 engines are designed to burn ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD), with less than 15 parts per million of sulfur. Jim Putz, category manager, Commercial Transportation Lubricants, Petro-Canada Lubricants, explains how ULSD can affect oil drain intervals. “Removing sulfur from diesel results in a cleaner combustion and less sulfuric acid being produced which can end up in the oil. With a good base to neutralize these acids, in theory, the oil should last longer, with all other factors held constant.

“However, with the increased rates of exhaust gas recirculation that are planned by OEMs to meet 2007 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emission standards, this results in a more acidic engine oil environment and potentially a slight negative effect on extended drain intervals. We suspect that these two factors will partially cancel each other out. At this point, all OEMs have indicated that they will maintain their current drain intervals with the new engines using PC-10 fluids.”

Vic Wintjes, transportation consultant and owner of VW Transcon Services, echoes Putz’s estimation: “I doubt the oil drain interval will change.”

Burning today’s high-sulfur fuel in the 2007 engines will also shorten drain intervals. The availability of ULSD throughout North America and having the distribution infrastructure in place for the 2007 engines might be a problem, thinks Wintjes but, notes Scott Zechiel, lubes and fuels program manager for 2007 engines with Detroit Diesel, “By EPA regulations there will be an 80/20 phase, with both fuels available, by October 15. This is the rule, but in actuality it may be 90/10.”

Drain intervals could be also affected by combining CJ-4 with high-sulfur fuels in a legacy engine, according to Zechiel.

It will take several years of data collection from fleets to answer with complete confidence the drain interval question, but maintaining OEM-recommended drain intervals will at least keep warranties valid. “We will publish our drain intervals in Q4 2006 at the latest, or earlier, if we are ready,” Zechiel says. “You can do whatever you want to, but we don’t recommend going outside our recommended guidelines. If we can link the oil drain interval to a failure, that would be grounds not to pay the warranty.”

Another way to invalidate an engine warranty would be to try cutting corners by using CI-4 in the new 2007 engines; CI-4 is not meant to be forward compatible with the 2007 engines. Zechiel continues: “CJ-4 is designed to be paired with ULSD, and there is risk involved with using CI-4. The right oil for the engine is CJ-4. A lot of things could happen. The diesel particulate filters (DPF) might not work right. There are other risks involved with engine wear and durability. If we link the wrong oil to engine failure, the warranty would be invalidated.”

Putz adds, “While sulphated ash will plug diesel particulate filters, phosphorus and sulfur [lower in CJ-4] are known oxidation catalyst poisons; oxidation catalysts are being incorporated into most diesel particulate filters to reduce NOx levels at the tailpipe.”

Backward compatibility of CJ-4 with legacy engines is supposed to be complete when low sulfur fuel is used.

Many answers will ultimately come from the shop floor and oil testing, but, warns Greg Shank, manager of the engine product group responsible for lubes, fuels, for Volvo Power Train, which supplies power trains to Mack: “Customers need to be very cautious about deviation from recommended drain intervals, and only adjust them after careful and extensive analysis.”

At Ryder, says Spong, “We currently perform oil sampling at our oil drain intervals and will continue to do so as we move forward. We have a benchmark for CI-4. As we move into CJ-4 we will be able to compare the CJ-4 soot load to it. We also work with the OEMs, they learn from our findings and research. We have the volume of vehicles that allows us to help the manufacturers see the trends.”

Wintjes recommends that users work with oil companies and OEMs to monitor usage. With proper oil analysis data, they can develop a change interval to suit their application; maybe even extend change intervals.

Spong, for one, is inclined to carry just CI-4 oils until the number of vehicles in the fleet makes it financially feasible to switch over. “I’d prefer to only stock one type of oil, for space. We have 10,000-litre tanks in the ground. Carrying both types of oil would mean having to buy new above ground tanks.”

Oliver Silver, Ryder’s director of marketing, adds, “At what point do you change over to one oil? We will have this overlap issue for probably another five years hence. This issue will face every large fleet.”

In fact, Oliver adds, this complexity may drive more fleets to outsource their maintenance. “Our feeling is that this represents just one more complexity in the fleet management challenge. If maintenance is not a core competency in your business, you may want to outsource. We saw a wave of this in the last emissions change in 2004.”

Indarsingh, currently involved in internal CJ-4 training programs at Shell, and later on, customer training, says there is complexity in management and cost in tracking the oil. Shops will have to institute a check process to ensure they will not put CI-4 in the new engines.

“That means a change in the maintenance process,” Indarsingh points out. “You either implement a process check to make sure that they do not put the wrong oil in the engine, or carry just one oil. We know the oil will cost more, but we feel that the overall cost will be less. [i.e., the total shop cost of carrying just CJ-4 will be less than carrying both oils]. Really think about how important that is to your shop today.”

And then there’s the issue of price. Our own Transportation Media Research survey, conducted in the second quarter of last year, found that 43% of Canadian fleet managers expected to pay 10% or less for the new oil while about another quarter expected to pay 11-15% more. And 60% said a price differential of greater than 10% would make them resort to stocking both the old and the new oil for their fleets. (Another survey on motor oil-related issues is scheduled for the second quarter of 2006.)

Petro-Canada says that costs and pricing have not yet been finalized. Chevron’s global manager for diesel engine oil technology, Jim McGeehan, says, “Everyone asks that question. The price will be driven by the market place. All of these products are very competitive.”

“Market forces will ultimately determine the cost of this new heavy duty engine oil,” said Indarsingh. “Shell’s cumulative investment into CJ-4 Engine Oil to date is significant … [it] could ultimately be a factor in the retail price.” Do not be suprised to see higher prices.

Steve Goodier, technology manager wi
th BP Lubricants North America, explains, “We only know that it will be more expensive. At the moment the whole of the industry has been going through a turbulent time with the cost of the product, due to hurricane Katrina. We will know the cost at launch time.”

In other words, all suppliers are reluctant to be the first to officially name the new price.

Why CJ-4?

CJ-4 performance level lubricants will be compatible with the new generation of diesel engines and the ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel they will burn. Unlike the current CI-4 oil, CJ-4 will have much lower levels of phosphorus, sulfur and sulphated ash, in order not to block the new engines’ diesel particulate filters mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to trap ash and meet the 2007 level of NOx in the exhaust.

“CJ-4 lubricant has been introduced because the new engine emission standard will be mandatory. The only way manufacturers can meet the legislation is to put filters in the exhaust pipes. If you use today’s lubricants, you will block the filters,” explains Steve Goodier, technology manager with BP Lubricants North America. “CJ-4 lubricants do not produce sulphated ash when burned in the combustion process and block the filters.”

The EPA has mandated a minimum 150,000-mile service interval for the diesel particulate filters, but, says Jim Putz, category manager, Commercial Transportation Lubricants, Petro-Canada Lubricants, “Many OEMs have actually announced much longer service intervals than this minimum requirement.”

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