When will API SM oils be coming out?

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Staff member
May 27, 2002
Guelph, Ontario
Is there an approximate date set yet when API SM oils will be coming out? I thought I read something a few months ago which said they would be moving to this new specification in the fall of 2004. Does anyone know what changes will be made to the qualifications in order to meet this new standard?
Don't know if you've seen this, but from Dec. 03: Citing a desire to be thorough in its response to critics, the committee writing the next passenger car motor oil standard delayed its final vote last week. Members of the ILSAC/Oil Committee said they plan to approve the GF-4 specification at a Jan. 8 meeting and do not plan to make any further changes to the draft, despite complaints from independent lubricant blenders and quick-lube operators. The specification has already been delayed for more than a year, and the committee is under the gun to finish its work so GF-4 oils can make their commercial debut by the end of July. “I’m pretty sure it’s going to wrap up at the next meeting,” said one committee member, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It would be disastrous for all of us if it were delayed significantly. All of us have invested a lot of time, and some of us have invested a lot of money in testing.” Automakers, the driving force behind the effort to develop GF-4, say the draft specification makes significant improvements in oxidative stability and engine protection, will allow improved fuel economy and will better protect air pollution control equipment. The standard has drawn criticism, though, from the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association and the Automotive Oil Change Association. Both groups warned that the new standard, by lowering viscosity of motor oils, could cause an increase in oil consumption in older cars and consequently an increase in air emissions, which GF-4 was supposed to cut. ILMA has also complained that the specification may require so much Group II base stock that some independents may be shut out of the market. The committee, which began drafting GF-4 in 2001, had planned to wrap up its work at the Dec. 17 meeting. ILSAC – the International Lubricant Standardization and Approvals Committee, which represents U.S. and Japanese automakers – intended to issue the specification the next day. ILSAC/Oil members told Lube Report after the Dec. 17 meeting that the committee disagrees with the critics’ arguments. Members said they are convinced base oil supplies will meet GF-4 demand, largely because they expect formulators will be able to make 10W-30 oils using Group I stocks blended with Group II-plus or Group III. This would be significant, even if Group I stocks cannot be used in 5W-30 and 5W-20 oils, they said, because 10W-30 is still the most popular grade of passenger car motor oil. ILSAC/Oil has been waiting for data showing that a demonstration 10W-30 oil with Group I can meet GF-4, but no data was presented at the Dec. 17 meeting. Members said an attorney with the American Petroleum Institute, which is providing staff support for the committee, advised waiting for data before responding to ILMA and putting GF-4 to bed. “Some of us were ready to respond right there,” a member said. “But the attorney said we should wait until we had the actual information in hand. It’s a question of making sure we dot all the i’s and cross the t’s for our response to ILMA.” Members said they expect to have information on a demonstration 10W-30 oil made with Group I at the Jan. 8 meeting. “From an engineering perspective, we’re convinced a 10W-30 can be made with Group I, and most of us were ready to say so at this meeting,” another member said. “But we decided to wait until we have the data in hand. And I’m confident we will have the data at the next meeting.” As to the oil viscosity issue, one member said the committee decided it was a matter of car manufacturer recommendations and therefore outside the scope of ILSAC/Oil’s responsibility. There was also a delay last week in the timing for API SM, the engine oil category that API’s Lubricant Committee is developing as a companion to GF-4. The “S” category is the specification motor oils must meet to display API’s donut, a trademark meant to identify oils that meet the latest standards. API's previous S specifications have generally mirrored the current GF standard, but SM will also need to define higher-viscosity oils, such as 10W-40, which fall outside of GF-4's fuel economy limits. The Lubricant Committee had scheduled a Dec. 15 teleconference, during which it hoped to wrap up its work on SM, including descriptive label language for the new category. However, members canceled the meeting 20 minutes after it was to start, saying they were not prepared to deal with its main topic: whether to continue to closely mimick the ILSAC specification except for its fuel economy requirement, or whether to allow marketers to use additional language under SM to identify other performance attributes, such as “wear protection” or “emission system protection.” API officials said the committee will reschedule the meeting for early next year but has not yet set a date.
And From Jan. 04: With a final retort to complaints from independent lubricant blenders, the committee drafting the GF-4 passenger car motor oil specification voted last week to adopt the standard. After approving the specification Thursday at a meeting in Detroit, ILSAC/Oil Committee members said they had received information rebutting independents’ concerns about base oil availability and the schedule for phasing in GF-4. “Our role was to write a specification that would accomplish certain things while making sure the playing field [for the motor oil market] remained fundamentally level,” said committee Chairman Bob Olree, of General Motors Powertrain. “We said all along that we were doing that, and this information bore that out.” GF-4 raises the bar on several performance parameters, requiring motor oils to improve fuel economy, to better protect engines, to cause less harm to air emissions control systems and to last longer at higher engine speeds and temperatures. Now that ILSAC/Oil has completed its work, the standard must be approved by ILSAC (the International Lubricant Standards and Approval Committee) and the American Petroleum Institute’s Lubricants Committee, representing automakers and lubricant companies, respectively. Those groups have tentatively discussed a schedule that would call for API to begin licensing GF-4 oils to display its starburst trademark July 31. Work on GF-4 began in 2001, and automakers originally wanted oils meeting the standard brought to market by the fall of 2003. ILSAC/Oil decided in mid-2002 that that schedule was too ambitious and postponed implementation until this year. The specification sparked controversy right up to the end, drawing complaints mostly from the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association and the Automotive Oil Change Association. ILMA warned that GF-4 would require so much Group II base oil that demand would exceed supply, leaving independents without the raw material needed to stay in the market. The association also said that the tentative phase-in period is too short. ILSAC/Oil and API’s Lubricants Committee have considered having API cease licensing of GF-3 oils April 30, 2005 – nine months after initial licensing of GF-4. ILMA contends that may not be enough time for additive companies to obtain approvals for packages sold to independents. During a telephone interview Monday, Olree said ILSAC/Oil received information that should allay both concerns. First, an additive company submitted data for a demonstration 10W-30 oil made with 50-percent Group I and which met GF-4 requirements. A second company provided data showing a demonstration oil made with 100 percent Group I that could pass the III-G test, a key requirement of GF-4. Olree said this data, submitted anonymously, supported ILSAC/Oil’s repeated assertions that Group II supply will meet demand. “This shows that we’re not causing a significant upheaval in the market,” he said. “I won’t deny that demand for Group II is going to increase, but it’s not going to be a radical change.” Olree said additive companies advised that they will have packages for independents tested, approved and available in time for the first-licensing target date of July 31. “The additive companies have certainly always come through in the past,” he said. “[Independents] will have to ask for them, but I see no reason why [package availability] should be an impediment.” ILMA made it clear that it remains concerned that its members will be adversely affected by GF-4 and the schedule for implementing it. Even under the best scenario, legal counsel Jeffrey L. Leiter said, the new standard will significantly reduce the amount of Group II oil sold on the spot market. “Some of our members make a significant amount of their Group II purchases on the spot market, and I think the spot market is not going to be there,” Leiter said. “So those members need to be doing everything they can to lock down that supply now.” ILMA has also raised the specter of filing unfair trade complaints with the federal government if its members cannot get the base oil they need, or if automakers make motor oil recommendations at independents’ expense. “We reserve the right to take our case to the Federal Trade Commission,” he said.
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