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One-on-one with Petro-Canada

TAMPA, Fla. - It's been an interesting year for fuel and lube companies such as Petro-Canada. Thanks to the latest round of emissions standards from the US EPA, Petro-Canada and other petroleum compan...


Colleen Flanagan

Colleen Flanagan


TAMPA, Fla. – It’s been an interesting year for fuel and lube companies such as Petro-Canada. Thanks to the latest round of emissions standards from the US EPA, Petro-Canada and other petroleum companies had to usher in a new grade of ultra low-sulfur diesel fuel as well as a new heavy-duty engine oil specification.

Truck News caught up with Colleen Flanagan, category manager, commercial transportation lubricants, at the recent Technology and Maintenance Council meetings in Florida to catch up on the industry’s most recent developments.

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TN: Rollout of ULSD seems to have been a non-issue. Was the transition as smooth as it seems?

Flanagan: It really has been more or less a non-event. There was a lot of hype, but in terms of fleets or O/Os we haven’t really heard of any big issues.

TN: I still hear a lot of questions and comments from drivers who are wondering what types of additives are required for ULSD – particularly in the winter. Are additives required or is this being addressed at the refinery?

Flanagan: Certainly with Petro-Canada’s ultra low-sulfur diesel, there are no requirements for additional additives.

TN: Even when travelling from warm environments into colder regions?

Flanagan: Yes, many of our customers travel north/south without any problems.

TN: Have there been any availability issues for ULSD in either Canada or the US?

Flanagan: ULSD has had some early constraints with the changeover of production capabilities. I’m not aware of any on-road constraints at this time.

TN: Initially, Petro-Canada suggested there may be a small impact on fuel economy using ULSD. Has this materialized?

Flanagan: I think the court is still out on that. Certainly there are some perceptions out there that there may be some impact on performance.

I’m not sure that it has been proven.

We don’t have enough data really, to comment on that at this point. You have to look at all the other things that can impact fuel mileage, including seasonality, make and model of the truck and service schedules.

We are currently tracking and analyzing this information.

TN: You rolled out your new CJ-4 DURON-E heavy-duty engine oil last year. How has that been received in the marketplace?

Flanagan: The DURON-E CJ-4 heavy-duty engine oil line has been received extremely well. We have three grades of DURON-E and they have all been very well-received in the marketplace. In fact, the demand has exceeded our expectations and the feedback we’re getting from our customers has been very, very positive.

TN: If demand is exceeding expectations, is it safe to assume many customers are using your CJ-4 engine oil on their pre-2007 engines?

Flanagan: Absolutely. We are seeing more companies than we expected going with CJ-4 for their entire fleet. DURON-E is a “one oil fits all” for fleets, it is backwards compatible so our customers don’t have to worry about stocking different oils for different engines.

TN: How do you account for this early acceptance of your more expensive CJ-4 product? Do the benefits of using CJ-4 engine oils outweigh the cost?

Flanagan: We really started to realize, through benchmarking and field trials, that DURON-E does perform better than the traditional CI-4 Plus products in the marketplace. This is now our best-in-class product line for Heavy-Duty Engine Oils. Comparing CI-4 to CJ-4, we’re definitely seeing improvements. We are confident that the use of CJ-4 DURON-E will be accelerated.

Our CI-4 DURON products are still available but we are recommending that fleets seriously consider switching to DURON-E exclusively – in doing so they will not have to worry about using the wrong HDEO (putting a CI-4 oil into an ’07 truck), and given the performance benefits related to our CJ-4 DURON-E they’ll potentially find that using it will cost them less in the long run when factoring in savings as a result of extended engine life, extended drains, less top-ups, reduced maintenance costs, etc.

TN: If Petro-Canada feels the use of CJ-4 should be accelerated, does that mean we’ll see Petro-Canada fast-track its plans to phase-out its CI-4 Plus engine oil?

Flanagan: It’s our hope to replace our CI-4 product sooner than we had originally planned. At the same time we want to make sure we are servicing all of our customers with the products that they want. So, definitely sooner – but we haven’t determined that timeline yet. And we will certainly make CI-4 products available to customers who prefer to stick with the traditional line.

TN: Are owner/operators making the transition to CJ-4 as readily as fleets seem to be?

Flanagan: From what we’ve seen, it looks like owner/operators may be a little slower to adapt. Certainly one of the focuses of our spring campaign throughout our own truck stop network, the Petro-Pass Network, will be to focus on all of the benefits that they’re going to get through the new CJ-4 products. All of our Petro-Pass locations will be carrying the product.

TN: Has Petro-Canada already given some thought to 2010? It sounds like most, if not all, manufacturers are leaning towards Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) to meet the 2010 emissions standards. Will this require a new engine oil formula?

Flanagan: We are looking towards 2010. We’re waiting for the new specifications to be public before we formulate, but we certainly have it on our timeline.

The expectation is that we will, as always, see some challenges with the new technology. However Petro-Canada has over 30 years experience in HDEO formulating and we’re confident we’ll come out with a very high-quality product line to meet those demands.

TN: With companies having to swallow a larger up-front purchase price for new engines, what can a company like Petro-Canada do to help them lower their cost-per-mile?

Flanagan: With the quality of the new CJ-4 product line, we’ll be in a position to potentially extend drain intervals beyond the OEM recommendations – of course, with an oil analysis. We will see better equipment protection so that engines will last longer.

We are already getting feedback that fleets are using less product for top-ups with DURON-E and then of course with better equipment protection and longer drain intervals, their maintenance costs will go down.


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