The current lubricant industry specification development process is too complex, slow, expensive and yield minimum quality specifications, according to Dan Sheets, president of Lubrizol Additives, one of the leading additive suppliers to the lubricant industry and part of Wickliffe, Ohio, U.S.A.-based Lubrizol Corp.
With an accelerating regulatory requirement to improve air quality and lower greenhouse gases in North America and around the world, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are looking at many vehicle solutions, he said.
Several of these solutions have consequences for the lubricant technology necessary to protect and enable their equipment. The lubricants themselves can also contribute to reducing emissions and improving fuel economy. The new frontier of lubricants has fluids that are lower in viscosity and can deliver fuel economy benefits and protection over the whole oil drain cycle, he said.
However, “it took eight years to get 0W-20s to the position of EPA [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] allowing OEMs to use them for certification,” Sheets said. “The industry cannot keep up with the required pace of change,” he said.
Beyond the industry processes, other forces are in play, he said. OEMs and oil companies are limited on what technologies can be used to certify vehicles. In many cases, the specifications represent minimum quality standards without higher performance options. End-users struggle to understand the performance benefits of what they are buying, he added.
Speaking at the Biannual Detroit Advisory Panel on April 19, Sheets proposed ways to improve the lubricant specification process, including forming a stakeholder governance body with the following goals:
– Streamline specification development
– Identify fast tracks for new technologies
– Form and fund an evergreen test development organization
– Engage regulatory agencies to incentivise the use of higher performance products that can enable societal benefits today
– Build tiered specifications to give consumers performance-based options
– Define paths to educate consumers on lubricant performance
He said Lubrizol will take actions to progress this initiative, starting with engaging oil companies, OEMs, regulatory agencies, testing organizations, other additive companies and end-user representative groups to collect perspective and to form the stakeholder governance body.
“Our initial goal is implement meaningful changes after the licensing of ILSAC GF-6 and PC-11 engine oil specifications,” he said.
The conference was attended by representatives of major OEMs, Tier 2 suppliers, oil companies, testing laboratories and additive companies.