Should SAE come up with a new viscosity grade for PC-11?

Should SAE come up with a new viscosity grade for PC-11?

pc-11_1The possibility of a new viscosity grade for the new heavy-duty engine oil category being developed in North America, known as PC-11, was discussed during the SAE Engine Oil Viscosity Classification (EOVC) task force meeting last week in Indianapolis, Ind., U.S.A.

Jason Andersen, failure analysis engineer at PACCAR, requested input from the task force regarding the possibility of a new viscosity grade for PC-11B. He made a presentation during the task force meeting on behalf of the New Category Development Team (NCDT) for PC-11. The presentation was the product of many discussions at NCDT, and asked questions about whether, if at all, a new grade could be established in time for PC-11’s first-license date.

There are two PC-11 categories under development: PC-11A for high temperature-high shear (HTHS) of 3.5 cP minimum and PC-11B for low HTHS of 2.9 to 3.3 cP. HTHS is related to engine fuel efficiency, with lower HTHS oils providing greater fuel economy and lower greenhouse gases in engines designed to run on thinner oils.

Andersen presented two possible options for PC-11: the first option is to keep the current J300 designations; the second is to request a new SAE viscosity grade, such as SAE xW-26. By using a viscosity grade that does not exist today, the belief is that it will make the consumer aware that there is something different about the oil.

For OEMs who don’t want to allow the use of PC-11B oils, they could simply specify not to use an SAE xW-26 oils in their engines.

“When PC-11 is introduced, there is the possibility that there will be overlap in PC-11A and PC-11B viscosity grades.  For example, you could find SAE 5W-30 3.5 HTHS (PC-11A) and SAE 5W-30 3.0 HTHS (PC-11B) on the shelf next to each other.  The only difference is the HTHS level.  Likewise, there could be SAE 10W-30 3.5 HTHS and SAE 10W-30 3.0 HTHS on the shelf next to each other,” said Gary Parsons, global OEM and industry liaison manager for Chevron Oronite.

“Not all OEMs will recommend or allow PC-11B in their engines and some OEMs will only allow PC-11B in the most current versions of their engines.  The question then becomes, how to label the PC-11A and PC-11B oils to avoid confusion and misapplication by the end users,” said Parsons.

Thus, the main purpose of a proposed new viscosity grade is to avoid the potential confusion and misapplication of the product.

An alternative approach is to use a different API designation for PC-11B oils.  In that case, regardless of viscosity grade, PC-11A oils could be labeled as “API CK-4.” Likewise, PC-11B oils could be “API FA-4” or some other new API designation that has not been used previously.  In this example, you might find API CK-4 SAE 5W-30 and API FA-4 SAE 5W-30 on the shelf next to each other.

The effectiveness of the naming convention will largely be dependent on which part of the label the users pay the most attention to, the viscosity grade or the API service classification, said Parsons.

During the ensuing discussions, some task force members said it would be difficult to install a new SAE grade, because they would have to change the existing specifications of the current SAE 30. An alternative was brought up, such as creating subcategories, meaning SAE 30 H and L (for high and low HTHS viscosity). Then, the task would be to determine the limits of high and low HTHS viscosity, as well as educating customers on what each one means.

Some task force members pointed out that it would be difficult to install a new SAE grade, because they would have to change the existing specifications of the current SAE 30. An alternative was brought up of creating subcategories, meaning SAE 30 H and L (for high and low HTHS viscosity). Then, the task would be to determine the limits of high and low HTHS.

Others pointed out that the decision to introduce a new viscosity grade is based on technical data and is driven by technical issues, not marketing ones.

The EOVC task force will monitor NCDT’s progress in defining the new category and will be ready to consider a technical request from NCDT at the next meeting in December 2014.

PC-11 is currently projected to have a first-license date of  Quarter 1 2017.

Vicky Denton

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