MONTREAL, Que. – Oil producers spent an inordinate amount of time developing a new category of heavy-duty engine oils (HDEO) for the latest round of emission reduction regulations.
The question still remains whether or not another development in HDEO will be required in 2010 when the next round of EPA emission regulations come into effect. Such changes are a time-consuming and costly process for oil producers.
Truck West caught up with Lenore Indarsingh, brand category manager, oil products with Shell Canada, during Expocam to gain insight into the work required to develop a new HDEO.
TW: New oil products seem to have a strong correlation to engine changes, what are the main factors behind oil development?
Indarsingh: The main factor behind oil development really is OEM specification that typically results from design changes to the engine hardware and the engine equipment itself.
What Shell Canada looks at is not just that as the main factor alone, we look at things like what’s driving the change. For example, with CJ-4 what’s driving the change is EPA regulations, so there’s an environmental drive.
Then we also look at customer needs and expectations. Customer expectation is a very critical part of the business and there’s a certain level of standard and quality the customer expects from us.
TW: How closely does the Shell engineering team work with engine manufacturers’ engineering teams during the process?
Indarsingh: We work very closely with OEMs. We have to, simply because we need a specification to which we formulate to; without that specification it’s the same as before. Our Global Research and Development engineering team is very connected with the OEM engineering teams.
Customers look to Shell to get information that will help them understand why change is coming about.
The main factor is OEM specification, but we really want to maintain a reputation in the market as being an educator, providing not only knowledge for customers but solutions for the industry – the EPA, OEM and the customer combined.
TW: Is there give and take between the two parties, or do oil producers have to work around given parameters?
Indarsingh: When we work with the OEM parameters there is a certain amount of room within those parameters to work and we work to the highest standard possible, not just to make the grade. We need to help drive the change and help them change for the future.
TW: From initial conception, how long does it take to develop a new oil product? And how much testing is required before it is released?
Indarsingh: Once the OEM sets their spec’, that can be considered the initial inception and from the time we know what the spec’ is, we may uncover things that could change those spec’s. The whole process could be anywhere from three to five years.
Testing is ongoing and we are constantly pushing the limits.
We test in Australia for heat, in the Andes Mountains for oxidation levels and on the ice roads in Canada for winter conditions.
The testing never ends; it is constantly going and there’s evolution the more we share with our customers and the OEMs as well.
TW: Do you ever run into situations where an oil product will work with one engine and not another, or perform better in a certain line of engines?
Indarsingh: This is the big challenge because the oil has to always work in a number of different engines; and just by the nature of lubricant, it has to work in a number of different engines and applications – on-road, off-road and stationary.
The big challenge is providing simplified solutions that benefit the customer, the EPA and all the OEMs, they need tangible solutions and it all needs to come together.
TW: In development, how much emphasis is placed on retaining previous performance enhancements, as opposed to just creating a working oil?
Indarsingh: A lot, a lot of emphasis is placed on maintaining a certain level of standard. Customer expectation is at a certain level and the customer puts the standard where it needs to be; and if their standards are high, then our quality needs to be even higher. We need to understand customer input as well, and Shell Canada keeps a pulse on that.