Article from The New Lube Report ()
December 30, 2009
Are 4 Percent of 'Good' Oils Bad?

By George Gill
The American Petroleum Institute this fall alerted 18 engine oil marketers of possible problems based on preliminary testing  of 120 bulk oil samples. In 2008 significant oil quality problems turned up in 20 of 534 (3.75 percent) of the bulk and packaged API-licensed samples tested. 

API’s aftermarket audit program program checks on the quality of API-licensed engine oils sold in the retail marketplace worldwide. As of Nov. 5, API had collected 133 bulk and 159 packaged samples for testing for the 2009 program. A change in collection contractor delayed the completion of testing in 2009.
“The contractor change did delay engine testing – we have one more we need to run for this year that will likely not be run until next year,” API engine oil licensing manager Kevin Ferrick noted. “We’ll also try to run engine tests in 2010.”
According to a Nov. 9 presentation to the API Lubricants Committee, one of the 18 marketers who received an alert about a possible compliance problem has informed API it is no longer selling to the location where the sample was collected, and was taking signs down. 
“Alerts result from quick tests run within days of collecting a bulk sample,” Ferrick told Lube Report. “These quick tests are P&C [physical and chemical] tests intended to give us a first look at a bulk oil. If we find a discrepancy, we send a note to the licensee for their information. The final audit findings are not sent to the licensee until we receive a complete test report from our audit lab.”
Ferrick emphasized that the alert is not considered the actual audit finding. “The quick tests are essentially a subset of the tests we run on an oil. The official findings are not presented until we receive the final test report from our audit lab.”
2008 Aftermarket Audit Results
Back in May 2009, API’s Lubricants Committee heard the results of the 2008 engine oil aftermarket audit program.
As of April 27, 2009, API had licensed 542 marketers representing 10,000 products in 60 countries. That compares to 532 licenses representing 9,400 products in 52 countries in 2008. Almost half of all licensees are from North America. About 30 percent are from Asia, and about 9 percent are from Europe. Amongst the licenses from Asia, 52 came from Japan, 34 from Taiwan and 23 from China. “We are always looking to expand in Asia – China in particular,” Ferrick said.
API collected 548 engine oil samples for auditing in 2008. About 38 percent of the samples (209) in 2008 were from bulk oil sites, with 42 percent obtained from quick-lube facilities, 24 percent from auto repair shops, 22 percent from auto dealers, and the remainder from service stations and truck facilities. API defines bulk as containers larger than five gallons.
Of the 548 samples collected in 2008, 83 percent were passenger car motor oil (72 percent SM and 11 percent SL) and the rest were heavy duty engine oil. About 35 percent of samples were SAE 5W-30, 29 percent were 10W-30, 16 percent were 15W-40, 11 percent were 5W-20 and the rest were other grades.
Twenty samples showed significant deviations, including low calcium, high phosphorus, low additive treat overall, and unacceptable MRV-yield stress test and 30 pass shear stability test results. Seventeen of the samples with significant deviations were packaged oils while only three were bulk.
API’s physical and chemical tests found 10 percent had significant physical property issues, while less than 1 percent of samples showed either an additive overtreat or undertreat. Nonconformance in 2008 related to elements not reported but found in oil included 10 oils with molybdenum and 24 oils with sodium.
API noted that low temperature fluidity issues and marginal shear stability accounted for many instances of physical property nonconformance. Eleven samples failed the cold-cranking simulator limit in 2008, compared to 14 in 2007. In 2008, 18 samples failed the 30 pass shear stability test (results were not available for 2007), with four of the results considered serious deviations.
Although the overall results showed that 33 percent of the samples were noncompliant, more than two thirds of those (23 percent of the samples) were noncompliant because of formulation switches. API said that licensees keeping the institute up to date on formulation changes would eliminate many nonconformance items and reduce extra administrative time and energy spent when API finds unlicensed formulations.
In October 2008, API licenses awarded by performance level included 1,812 GF-4 oils, 3,128 API SM oils and 978 API CI-4 oils. As of May 2009, the numbers increased to 1,856 GF-4, 3,472 API SM and 1,022 CI-4 oils.

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