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Shell says backwards compatibility for PC-11B fuel economy oils not ruled out


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Truck News / June 10, 2015

The new PC-11 heavy-duty engine oil category currently being developed will offer fleets substantial fuel savings, but will it be backwards compatible?

That’s the million dollar question that remains, about 18 months before the category is rolled out. And to Mike Hasinic, vice-president of maintenance support at Penske Truck Leasing, it’s potentially the multi-million dollar question.

“I’m praying the OEMs come up with backwards compatibility, at least to 2007,” he said during a presentation at Shell Lubricants’ Global Media Event here today. “We do a million PMs on our fleet per year and today we buy oil in bulk so we have 1,000-gallon lube cubes. We’re planning on taking 1,000-gallon lube cubes now and coming up with two 500-gallon lube cubes; it will cost us millions of dollars.”

The PC-11 engine oil category, scheduled for implementation in December 2016 or early 2017, features two sub-categories. PC-11A will be a straight replacement for today’s CJ-4 heavy-duty engine oils. However, the PC-11B low-viscosity engine oil category will offer substantial fuel savings that fleets will want to take advantage of, and it’s that category that may not be backwards compatible. If that’s the case, fleets will have to decide whether to stock two oils or to forego the fuel economy benefits of the PC-11B oils.

While many oil companies have already declared that PC-11B will not be backwards compatible, Dan Arcy, global OEM technical manager with Shell, has taken a more optimistic view. The company has already conducted 25 million miles of testing with a PC-11B-type engine oil and has seen no issues on current-generation engines. Still, OEMs will need to be convinced.

“At this point, all the OEMs have not specifically said whether they’re going to be backwards compatible or to what degree,” Arcy explained. “That’s something the OEMs are going to have to tell us, and at this time we don’t have that information to share.”

For its part, Volvo Group foresees being able to allow the PC-11B fuel-saving oils on Volvo and Mack engines dating back to 2007. It has conducted its own testing of the new oils and hasn’t seen any impact on engine durability, while fuel economy has climbed from 6.62 mpg using a 15W-40 to 6.82 mpg using a PC-11B-type oil.

“Engine durability cannot be compromised,” said Greg Shank, executive staff engineer with Volvo Group. “We’re starting to get good data that says it won’t be. We’re hoping we can go back as far as EPA07…Our engine hardware hasn’t changed a lot since 2007, so that’s our goal, to get back to there. It’s a big deal to our customers and it’s a big deal for us and it could be a competitive advantage for us to go back as far as we can.”

And while the PC-11 category is being developed in the US, Shank said the specifications Volvo is creating around it will be global.

“When we introduce our PC-11 specification, it will be a global spec’, not a North American spec’,” he said.

Arcy said the potential fuel savings that could result from the PC-11B category oil are enormous. He pointed out that if all on-highway trucks in the US and Canada could achieve a 1% fuel economy improvement, the CO2 reductions would be equal to removing 23,000 trucks from the road.

“Reducing that 1%, we can do that today,” he said. “We have products that are available that can provide fuel economy benefits greater than 1%, but where we’re going with PC-11 is even lower. We want higher numbers than that 1%.”

In addition to fuel savings, there are other benefits to the new category as well. Oxidation stability will improve significantly in anticipation of hotter-running engines. Aeration improvements and shear stability will also come from the new category. New tests are currently being developed to measure oxidation control, aeration and shear stability.

Fleets already running lower-viscosity engine oils, such as a 10W-30, will be able to get it as a PC-11A or PC-11B category oil. Those in the latter category, however, will offer even greater fuel savings.

By the time the new category is finalized, the oils will no longer be referred to as PC-11. The PC stands for “proposed category” and they will no longer be proposals. It’s expected the A category oil will be referred to as CK-4 and the fuel economy oil will be called FA-4. Developing the category will have taken about five years when all is said and done.

The new category was scheduled to be launched in early 2017 but truck OEMs are pressuring oil companies to move it forward to December 2016 so they can use the fuel savings as a means of complying with anticipated GHG17 fuel economy targets.

Arcy predicted this will be possible, but the decision still must be voted on and approved by stakeholders.

While the new oils will likely cost more, Penske’s Hasinic said he’s hoping it will also be possible to extend drain intervals to help mitigate any cost increase.

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