Chairman’s Report

Andrew Goddard, Chairman, Verification of Lubricant Specifications

Since the introduction during the first half of the last century of classifications defining minimum performance requirements for lubricants, these have been incrementally adjusted to meet both the improvement in hardware to deliver energy transfer more efficiently, and latterly to meet increasingly stringent environmental parameters, notably in emissions, product life and fuel economy. Fundamental to meeting these targets is the development of additives rigorously tested until all limits are met, for use in base fluids of a proven quality. Bringing products to the market to comply with these standards and specifications requires significant financial investment.

Additive packages are balanced combinations of sometimes competing chemistries designed to deliver the performance applicable to the demands of several specifications. These are often retested throughout their development due to interim shortcomings in unforeseen areas. This is evidence that an untested package claiming to meet the requirements of these specifications through an estimation of the performance of a mix of certain elementals, supported by little more than a limited range of bench tests brings into question whether such a package and thereby any oil based upon it “does what is says on the tin”. For example, a percentage calcium figure is in itself no guarantee of the detergency for which this specific component is intended. There are several commonly used molecules that might deliver the required calcium level into an oil, but not all of these perform accordingly in any given test.

Fuel economy targets are included in the latest passenger car oil specifications and will begin to feature routinely in forthcoming commercial standards. As an example, an oil claiming today such as ACEA C2 infers that it delivers or exceeds a minimum, verifiable reduction in fuel consumption


measured according to the M111FE test. Multiple other tests define how a lubricant needs to perform in terms of the life of the oil itself, and its effect on emissions and the integrity of the hardware. Together these define the extended process by

which an additive supplier brings technology of an appropriate quality to the market.

Responsibility for the credentials claimed by an oil rests with the marketer. With no control over how the oil is ultimately produced, an additive company cannot offer an application warranty for its products. However the data set that it provides represents a significant contribution to a blender being able to support the quality of its oils when required. Given that the degree of cost required to bring additives forward is substantial and increases accordingly the more a package is asked to achieve, an additive that looks too good to be true should beg the question as to where is its supporting data. Without this, a blender’s ability to guarantee its own oil’s quality is significantly compromised, with the consequent dangers arising from making potentially unsupportable marketing claims to the consumer. By not undertaking comprehensive testing, such an additive company is in effect asking its customer to assume all risk for not investing in its own technology.

At a time when the automotive industry is under scrutiny arising from past errors of judgement, should any oil marketer expose itself to the potential consequences of making unverifiable environmental claims?


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