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Punching above their weight class

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - Shell Canada held a recent customer information session here to espouse the fuel economy benefits of moving to a lighter weight oil and to prepare customers for EPA2010 engine requ...


Instant analysis: Dan Arcy, OEM technical manager with Shell, told fleet managers that consistency is key when running an oil analysis program. Machines like this one can provide customers with fast results.
Instant analysis: Dan Arcy, OEM technical manager with Shell, told fleet managers that consistency is key when running an oil analysis program. Machines like this one can provide customers with fast results.

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. –Shell Canada held a recent customer information session here to espouse the fuel economy benefits of moving to a lighter weight oil and to prepare customers for EPA2010 engine requirements.

The Shell Fleet 2010 Technology Symposium featured the company’s global experts, who urged fleets in attendance to consider moving to a lighter weight oil, such as a 10W-30, from the 15W-40 most fleets are currently comfortable with.

It’s a trend that’s already underway in Europe, noted OEM technical manager Dan Arcy, and is beginning to appear here in North America as well. He noted Mercedes-Benz’s factory fill in Europe is a 5W-40 and Volvo and Mack have made a 10W-30 their factory fill in North America. Still, about 90% of heavy-duty engine oil sold in the US is of the 15W-40 variety, with 10W-30 and 5W-40 synthetic oils only slightly more popular here in Canada. Recent testing, however, has shown fuel economy can be gained by moving to a lighter weight oil, without sacrificing engine protection or durability.

“The viscosity grade of the oil gives you that fuel economy benefit,” Arcy explained, suggesting a 1.6% fuel economy improvement can be achieved simply by moving from a 15W-40 to a 10W-30. Arcy said it’s like swimming laps in a pool filled with water rather than honey -the lighter weight oil provides less resistance.

“That’s really what’s happening in the engine,” he said. “That’s where the fuel savings are coming from -the ability to move that oil through the engine.”

While a 1.6% fuel economy improvement may seem insignificant, Arcy warned against grandiose claims of larger fuel savings and pointed out 1.6% can save an operator $960 per truck each year based on 120,000 miles per year at 6 mpg with diesel costing US$3/gallon. By that same math, a 100-truck fleet could save about $96,000 per year.

“We’ve been able to demonstrate that the wear performance remains the same and the oil consumption remains about the same as it was with the 15W-40,” Arcy said.

Preparing for 2010

Shell also addressed the new generation of smog-free engines that are coming on line this year, noting that for the first time a new emissions requirement has not required a new engine formulation.

Arcy said oil companies “overformulated” the API CJ-4 category of heavy-duty engine oils introduced in 2007 so that they’d be able to handle current engine requirements.

“Every year we went through an emissions change, we also went through an oil change starting back in 1998,” Arcy said. “In 2010, this is the first time we have not needed to make any changes. The API CJ-4 quality engine oils are the engine oils recommended for 2010-emissions engines, so you can check that box off.”

However, Arcy did make some suggestions on how fleets can prepare to integrate new generation EPA2010-compliant engines into their fleets, specifically those using selective catalytic reduction (SCR) exhaust aftertreatment. For starters, with the introduction of a new liquid (Diesel Exhaust Fluid), Arcy said technicians and drivers should be trained on the importance of keeping their fluids straight. While it would be difficult to mistake diesel for DEF, or vice-versa, misfills are a concern and an action plan should be put in place in case they occur.

“Is anybody going to put the wrong fluid in there? It’s absolutely going to happen,” he said of the new DEF tank, which will have a blue cap to minimize the risk of misfueling. “Diesel fuel is going to go in there by accident or you’re going to see DEF end up in the fuel tank. These are things that need to be thought out when you’re training drivers.”

Drivers, Arcy said, should be instructed not to start the vehicle if they realize they’ve added DEF to their diesel tank, since the fluid is 67.5% water.

“If they start the truck up, they’re 20 miles down the road (when problems arise) and now you’ve got a $300 tow bill on top of it,” he said. “If these mistakes are made, they have to call (the terminal) and work through the procedures you have in place. It may mean pulling and draining that tank, but the last thing you want to do is drive.”

At the shop, Arcy said fleets will have to determine whether they want to stock DEF on-site and whether their bays are configured for its storage.

“If it was me owning a fleet, I’d want to have it on-site. Anytime a truck comes in, I’d fill it up for him because that’s one less chance of a driver out there accidentally putting the wrong product in,” he reasoned. It’s possible drivers will be able to avoid filling up their DEF tanks altogether, since DEF will be consumed at a 2% rate compared to diesel. Arcy noted a 13-gallon DEF tank will get a driver about 6,300 kms between refills.

“You’re talking about having to fill up every few weeks, not all the time,” he said.

Oil analysis

Shell’s Arcy also discussed the merits of employing an oil analysis program to extend drain intervals. The first step in establishing an oil analysis program is to ensure all information is entered correctly, he stressed. Poor record-keeping or data entry can leave a fleet looking for answers and playing the blame game. Arcy spoke of one fleet that saw its soot levels double on certain vehicles and began blaming everyone from the engine manufacturer to the oil supplier.

It was eventually discovered that one of the fleet’s shops doubled drain intervals from 20,000 to 40,000 miles without communicating the change to the other shop.

“All the information has to be filled out properly,” Arcy said. From there, consistency is key. Even changes in how the oil sample is pulled (hot vs. cold engine or from the sump vs. the dipstick tube) can throw off an analysis.

“Those things have to be taken into consideration and standardized in order to get the best results,” Arcy said.

An oil analysis program will measure three types of metals: wear metals, contaminant metals and additive metals. Each will tell a story. For instance, Shell Rotella 15W-40 has a calcium baseline of 2,300 parts per million (ppm). A drop to 1,000 ppm may indicate hydraulic oil was mistakenly added in place of engine oil. They key to a successful oil analysis program is timeliness -pulling and submitting oil samples on a regular basis and then taking the time to read each report when it’s received.

“Quite frequently, people get this report in the mail, they open the filing cabinet and file it. You’ve gotta look at them -filing these doesn’t do any good!” Arcy stressed. And the same can be said for collecting and submitting samples. “It’s meant to be done rapidly,” he explained. “Don’t sit on them until you have a box full. If they’re sitting on the shelf for 30 days, it doesn’t do you any good if you have a coolant leak running down the road for 30 days.”


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