New Diesel Emissions Regulations Mean A New Category Of Engine Oil – Maintenance


Two new classes of heavy-duty diesel engine oils are under development.

HDT file photo

A new donut is being baked. Two, to be exact. The American Petroleum Institute’s Lubricants Group has established a New Category Development Team to begin the test-development phase of what will be a pair of new API diesel engine oil categories.

During development, the service category will be known as PC-12. This will lead to the release of two new specifications for use in engine oil formulation. Then each of the new categories will get its own API service symbol donut. These new donuts – expected to be rolled out within the next five years – will exceed the performance standards set by the last two diesel service categories announced by API in 2016, FA-4 and CK-4.

For a preview of what’s to come over the next few years, HDT spoke with Jeffrey Harmening, Senior Director of API – EOLCS/DEF/MOM.

He explained that the Engine Manufacturers Association had requested the development of a new category to help meet the requirements of upcoming greenhouse gas and fuel consumption regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources. Board. API’s first license date request is no later than Jan. 1, 2027, to coincide with the projected 2027 implementation date for the EPA and CARB heavy-duty regulations, said Harmoning. “This is similar to the PC-11 [the previous test category] licensing schedule that resulted in APIs CK-4 and FA-4.

The EPA said that by December 2022, it will “propose and finalize tough new emissions standards to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution from trucks beginning in the 2027 model year.” This action will include an update of current GHG standards “to capture the market shift towards zero-emission technologies in certain segments of the heavy-duty vehicle sector”. The agency also noted that it was working on new, even stricter GHG emissions standards for engines and heavy-duty vehicles “starting with the 2030 model year.”

“The EPA is still a big driver of category development,” Harmening noted. As with the twin categories created by PC-11 (CK-4 and FA-4), PC-12 will produce a “C” sub-category. [as in CK-4) that will maintain its backwards compatibility. A new “F” subcategory that replaces FA-4 will not need to retain backwards compatibility — engineer-speak for an oil formulation that is approved for use in all current vehicles.

Oil Viscosity: How Low Can You Go?

Development of the next “F” subcategory will look at further reductions in viscosity, as that will help engine builders meet tighter fuel economy targets. “The ask is whether a new ‘F’ will call for even lower viscosity levels, perhaps moving down from Xw30 to Xw20,” Harmening said.

But retaining backwards compatibility for the “C” subcategory does not mean little will change for its next iteration. According to Harmening, developing a fresh “C” will consider the role of oil performance in engines using newer technology, such as elastomer seals, and the impact of the T-11 and T-12 engine-wear tests used during recent category developments.  

“That the wear tests are aging is an ongoing issue that will be addressed in concert with developing PC-12,” he explained. “The hope is that T-11 and T-12 may no longer be needed, and then the question will be whether new tests would be more appropriate. There is also the question of whether to sustain these tests so that older [API] service categories may still be allowed. This is also due to the fact that engine manufacturers are global entities, with different products in different markets.

More specifically on the obsolescence of engine wear testing, he said the current T-11 and T-12 tests “are probably not available for the PC-12” and that the new category team will develop a replacement. T-11 if necessary.

Advantages of the new oil categories

Overall, the Engine Manufacturers Association calls for the PC-12 process to achieve the following improvements:

  • Increased oxidation performance
  • New wear test capability
  • Added lower viscosities
  • Improved post-processing capability
  • Extension of elastomer compatibility

Among the potential benefits of diesel engines, Harmening said, include:

  • “Enabling new engine technologies that are expected to experience higher average effective brake pressure and customer demands,” as well as addressing anticipated regulations on extending useful life and guarantee.
  • “Support fuel economy requirements for certain engine models.”
  • “Support new elastomers used in modern engines.”

Additionally, he said, the potential environmental benefits of PC-12 development will include limited SAPS (sulfated ash, phosphorus, sulfur). He noted that this will help the engines “meet stricter environmental regulations on reducing emissions”.

Once details on what will become the new PC-12 baked donuts are finalized and packaged, Harmening said fleets can “expect improved oil performance, resulting in longer lasting engines.” new “C” and “F” oils. Longer oil change intervals may also be possible, which would help fleets save on maintenance costs and support sustainability efforts.

As for the category development process that has been going on for years, Harmening said it will be, as always, a “collaborative effort” between engine manufacturers, oil producers, fuel suppliers. additives and test operations.

“We have the green flag,” he added. “And that work will move forward quickly.”

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