A Better Blend

| April 07, 2005

The new oils are made with higher quality base stock. Group I base stocks are normally -refined, while Group II stocks are hydrocracked-a super refining process that removes impurities and makes the oil stable even when very hot. Group I base stocks are still used, however, because they dissolve deposits better, helping keep pistons clean. To make its CI-4 oils, ExxonMobil actually developed an improved way to add TBN, or acid resistance, while minimizing ash. It’s called “Trimer Core” technology.

These new CI-4 oils had to make it through an entire battery of difficult tests. The tests were tougher because the test standards were much higher than those used for old CH-4 requirements.

Market Forces
Harrington of ExxonMobil says, “It is unlikely that any major lubricant marketers will continue to include CH-4 quality heavy-duty engine oils in their U.S. product lines.” This is feasible as, “Oils that stand up to the rigors of API CI-4 [requirements] will automatically meet the requirements of previous API diesel engine service categories as well. Customers running mixed fleets comprised of EGR and non-EGR engines can use a single CI-4 oil for their entire fleet.”

Thomson of ChevronTexaco says, “Because CI-4 oils are mandatory in EGR engines and also provide higher levels of performance in other engines, most major lubricant suppliers have switched to offering this lubricant quality level.”

Arcy of Shell says, “The majority of lubricant marketers have qualified their premium products as API CI-4 or they are claiming API CI-4 performance. In the case of Shell Rotella T and Pennzoil Long Life, a running change was made in early 2002.”

You will need to check engine OEM requirements such as Mack EO-N Premium Plus and Cummins CES 20078 specifications. If you’re running a Cummins or Mack with EGR, you’ll need to make sure the oil meets the additional specification as not all CI-4 oils do.

There is a small possibility that there will actually still be some of the older quality CH-4 oils remaining in the marketplace due to the presence of Caterpillar’s developing ACERT technology to meet the lower-emissions requirements. But Harrington says, “Caterpillar is developing its own specification, to be known as CAT ECF-1, which will be added to the list of additional performance hurdles for CI-4 oils.”

Caterpillar’s Penny Shumaker, filter marketing consultant, says that, at this point, “The new CI-4 oil is not needed for Caterpillar engines because Cat does not use EGR.”

Whether the price of the new CI-4 oils will increase is debatable. “The market will determine the cost of CI-4 oils,” Arcy says. “However, it should be noted that tens of millions of dollars was invested on the development of the API CI-4 performance category and oil qualification.”

Thomson says so far, it does not appear that the introduction of API CI-4 has had much of an impact on the price levels of finished oils in the marketplace.

John Clevenger, manager of global product management at Fleetguard, says, “There is so much pricing pressure in the heavy-duty oil market that there can’t be an increase in price.”

Your Options
Because of the superb performance CI-4 is likely to give, those responsible for engine maintenance may feel compelled to make the switch now for your pre-EGR enignes.

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