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Work has begun on new PC-11 motor oil category

PARK CITY, Utah - The development team of motor oil, additive and engine manufacturing experts tasked with creating the new PC-11 heavy duty motor oil category has now held its inaugural meeting and begun the long process that will culminate in...

PARK CITY, Utah – The development team of motor oil, additive and engine manufacturing experts tasked with creating the new PC-11 heavy duty motor oil category has now held its inaugural meeting and begun the long process that will culminate in new motor oils by Jan. 1, 2016.

“A typical category takes about 4 years to develop and the next four years is going to be tight but it is doable,” Dan Arcy, global OEM technical manager for Shell Global Solutions (US) Inc., told transportation journalists gathered for a special briefing on the future of lubricants held here at the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics.

It will be about 10 years since the current motor oil CJ-4 category came out in January 2007 and the 2016 formulation deadline. Up until 2010, motor oil manufacturers had to come up with a new oil category every time new engine emissions standards mandated by the US Environmental Protection Agency had to be met. But the CJ-4 category was good enough that it could meet the 2010 emissions mandate without changes. That won’t be the case this time around as the EPA pushes engine manufacturers in a new direction: reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Lower viscosity engine oils is one of several levers which engine manufacturers want to have at their disposal to be able to reduce GHG emissions from their engines, Arcy explained.

During that first meeting the team began considering the tests, criteria and limits that will drive the new category. Since CJ-4’s introduction in 2007, there have also been changes in engine hardware with more expected as engine manufacturers move towards engines with lower GHG emissions. As a result, the testing protocols used on the CJ-4 oils may not be the most representative of future conditions motor oils will have to meet.

Arcy said engine manufacturers essentially want the new category to be split into two subcategories:

  • – One that preserves historical HD oil criteria and which is backwards compatible;
  • – And one that would be focused on improving fuel economy, which may or may not be backwards compatible. “That’s the details that still need to be worked out. It could be a year or two before we know,” Arcy said.

Likely there will need to be two different motor oils produced to meet the requirements noted above. What is certain at this point is that the motor oils engineered to improve fuel efficiency will need to be lower viscosity oils such as 10W30s or 5W30s.

Shell is already claiming a 1.6% improvement in fuel performance with its Rotella 10W30 formulation versus its 10W40 and Arcy said he is seeing “a small change” in the industry moving towards lower viscosity oils. He pointed out that both Volvo and Mack are currently factory filling with 10W30.

In addition to improving fuel performance, engine manufacturers want the new oils to improve on several other areas, including:

Oxidation Stability – This is the ability of the lubricant to reduce oxidation, which occurs as engine temperatures rise, turning the oil acidic and causing it to thicken. Arcy said the next generation of engines could be running as much as 10C hotter, which would cause oxidation to double, if a new motor oil formulation was not concocted to deal with this new challenge.

Shear Stability – This refers to the oil’s ability to reduce shear as a result of mechanical shearing. There is evidence, according to Shell officials, that the higher temperatures and pressures in today’s engines may be shearing oils enough to drop them out of grade after a certain amount of mileage.

Biodiesel Compatibility – There is no industry standard currently to test motor oils that will run in engines using biodiesel. With an expectation that the industry will increase its reliance on biodiesel, it’s important that the new PC-11 category include tests for that.

Scuffing/Adhesive Wear – Currently there is also no test for this when qualifying a motor oil. There is concern that the thinner films of lower viscosity oils could pose an issue and so a test on scuffing and adhesive wear needs to be created.

Aeration: Engine OEs also want to be sure the new engine oils do not have air entrained within the lubricant, leading to foaming. So tests for this must also be updated.

In short, the industry is looking for motor oils to contribute to improving fuel economy but want to ensure there are testing procedures in place to ensure this does not compromise durability.

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