Truck News


Countdown to 2007: Engine Oils

The US Environmental Protection Agency is demanding the trucking industry reduce its emissions by 90% in 2007. It's no small feat, and in order to comply, manufacturers will have to introduce new comp...

The US Environmental Protection Agency is demanding the trucking industry reduce its emissions by 90% in 2007. It’s no small feat, and in order to comply, manufacturers will have to introduce new components as well as a costly aftertreatment system. Between now and December, Truck News will be exploring, in detail, each element of the 2007 emissions equation. We begin the series this month with a look at CJ-4 engine oils.


TORONTO, Ont. – The 2007 generation of heavy-duty diesel engines will generate more heat than today’s powerplants, as they employ increased levels of EGR (or clean gas induction in Caterpillar’s case) to meet the stringent new EPA emissions standards. As a result, a new category of heavy-duty engine oils (HDEOs) is bring introduced to provide improved oxidation resistance and to prevent thermal breakdown.

And for the first time, HDEOs are being limited to 1% ash, 0.4% sulfur and 0.12% phosphorous.

API CJ-4 engine oils (known as PC-10 during the developmental stages) will be rolled out Oct. 15 when the API licensing agreement kicks in. While they’ll look and smell just like today’s engine oils, filling 2007 engines with CI-4 Plus oil could have serious repercussions.

“If you continue using CI-4 products in 2007 engines, you will shorten the life of the diesel particulate filter (DPF),” warns Clinton Smith, technical advisor for automotive lubricants with Imperial Oil. “Anybody that is going to have new equipment will be required to change to the new product.”

Prematurely clogging the DPF will require the unit to be taken off the road to be cleaned earlier than scheduled. Otherwise, operators will suffer from performance deterioration and increased fuel consumption. In a recent paper, Shell Lubricants warned that “If an API CI-4 Plus oil is used in a 2007 engine, the service interval for the DPF could be compromised as the higher ash-containing API CI-4 Plus oil will result in more rapid blocking of the DPF. In addition, the CI-4 Plus oils may not be able to withstand the more severe environment within the 2007 engines (higher temperatures, more EGR) which may result in premature thickening of the oil, sludge formation and resultant wear and corrosion.”

But Jim McGeehan, global manager, diesel oil technology, Chevron Global Lubricants, says while CJ-4 oils are designed specifically to work with DPFs, some fleets may opt to continue using CI-4 Plus and simply clean their filters more frequently. A 3,000 truck fleet, for instance, may not want to switch to CJ-4 immediately once it begins introducing 2007 tractors due to the increased cost.

“I think it will be driven by the price differential between the two products,” he said. “It will also depend on the OEM, whether they insist on a CJ-4 oil. In some cases, depending on the size of the DPF, they may still be able to handle CI-4 Plus oils. There will be a customer choice there.”

CJ-4 engine oils can be used in older equipment without consequence. In fact, Dan Arcy, technical marketing manager with Shell Lubricants, says fleets and owner/operators will realize substantial benefits when using CJ-4 in older engines.

“(CJ-4 will) provide additional performance and benefits in wear reduction, soot handling and oxidation resistance,” says Arcy. “It also helps maximize the durability of Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs).”

Arcy said the new engine oil formula provides a giant leap in terms of wear, soot and oxidation control.

Amanda Damen, product specialist, research and development with Petro-Canada Lubricants, agrees.

“This category wasn’t designed as an improvement,” she said at a recent customer information seminar hosted by Petro-Canada. “The fact we’re getting some benefits as well is a bonus.”

The performance bonuses in large part can be attributed to the use of ultra low-sulfur diesel fuel, which will be required for on-highway trucks in 2007. The reduction in sulfur (from 500 parts per million to 15 PPM) results in a less acidic environment in which the oil has to function.

Jim Putz, category manager, commercial transportation lubricants, Petro-Canada, says field testing has shown CJ-4 oils can result in a 10-20% reduction in soot accumulation while iron wear has been cut in half. Shell’s Arcy points out the new oil has also proven to provide better temperature oxidation control which will help enhance engine durability and the overall cleanliness of the engine.

But all the benefits of course will come with a price. It costs more than US$1 million to certify a new engine oil, Damen points out, and that cost will be passed on to the customers.

“The advantages of the new oil comes at some price increase which has yet to be determined,” says Imperial Oil’s Smith. “There will be a premium for CJ-4 – the new product brings performance advantages but it costs more.”

Some estimates within the industry have pegged the premium at 10-15%.

That begs the question, will the improvements in performance be worth the extra investment on pre-’07 engines?

Oil manufacturers have announced they will continue offering their CI-4 Plus products so owner/operators and maintenance managers will have the option of stocking two engine oils. However, most advise against doing so to avoid the risk of misfilling new trucks with CI-4 oil.

“If you have two oils, in our field testing experience, it’s been really hard for shops to keep the right oil going into the right unit,” warns Smith. “They’re busy all the time and they’re doing well to keep transmission oils out of the engines. It’s not easy to keep the oils segregated.”

Putz says Petro-Canada has surveyed customers and found that most fleets are willing to switch exclusively to CJ-4 right across the fleet if the price is within 30% of today’s oil. Eventually, as the pre-’07 engines are removed from the highway, suppliers will phase out CI-4 altogether.

Smith says there may be more reluctance to make the switch from CI-4 Plus to CJ-4 among off-highway trucking operations, which are exempt from using ultra low-sulfur diesel fuel in pre’-07 trucks. In fact, off-highway truckers today can still use fuel containing sulfur levels of up to 5,000 PPM which could pose some problems for CJ-4 oils, Smith admits.

“We’re testing CJ-4 on-road with 500 PPM sulfur fuel and its doing really well – it is outperforming CI-4 in viscosity control and wear performance. We have no concerns with that product being backserviceable in the on-road community,” he points out. However he adds the new oil has a lower total base number (the measure of the alkaline reserve, or the ability of the oil to neutralize acids from combustion) and while the TBN depletion rate is the same, operators using extremely high-sulfur fuel may welcome the extra TBN reserve that comes with CI-4 Plus.

“The more sulfur you have in the fuel, the more important the TBN reserve is, so the off-road community may be slower to move to CJ-4,” Smith admits. It will eventually become a non-issue as pre-’07 trucks are retired and when off-highway operators are forced to use ultra low-sulfur diesel.

The good news about CJ-4 is that unlike other elements of the 2007 emissions equation, there will be no performance penalty associated with it. In fact, CJ-4 will deliver improved performance, and may even present the opportunity to extend drain intervals.

“You’re getting a better product and you’re getting further extensions in drains,” says Steve Goodier, director of technology with BP Lubricants. “If you have a 2007 engine then you have to use the CJ-4 product but if you have an older engine then you still get the benefits of extended drains.”

“CJ-4 is an upgraded category,” says Chevron’s McGeehan. “But the reality is, we are testing the 2007 engines now from each engine manufacturer and these engines run twice the EGR rates of previous engines, so there’s more stress on the oil and you’re still putting a lot of exhaust back into that cylinder. Can you go beyond the OEM limit? I don’t thin
k the data’s out there yet to support that because there isn’t sufficient field testing.”

One thing the manufacturers can agree on is that customers will benefit from the new formula.

“This category upgrade has been very refreshing to the industry,” says Goodier. “It allowed the paradigm to shift from boosting existing chemistry to having a clean sheet of paper and looking at optimizing performance across the board.”

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