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Prime Mover Magazine

Yesterday, today, the future

Yesterday, today, the future

The new oil specification category CK-4 has been developed in response to changing emissions standards, and can realise benefits for the fleet operator for today, while looking after the planet for tomorrow.

Over the last 50 years, the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history*. As a major contributor to the problem*, the global commercial road transport industry comes under pressure to meet tightening emissions regulations aiming to help slow the effects of global warming.

A lot of work has already been done: the introduction of Euro VI and equivalent regulations have revolutionised the way global engine manufacturers design their equipment and resulted in significant reductions in both particulate matter and Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions, which primarily affect smog and acid rain, rather than global warming. The future focus will now have a direct influence on global warming.

To answer these demands, the American Petroleum Institute (API) has developed a new oil specification category, CK-4. Released to the Australian market in December 2016, CK-4 represents the most fundamental change to oil specifications in a decade, according to Viva Energy Product Support Engineering Team Lead, Paul Smallacombe.

“Viva Energy is the distributor of Shell oil, lubricant and grease products in Australia, and Shell has played a leading role in the development of the new engine oil categories at the API,” says Paul.

The API is an industry body made up of a number of committees, including the New Category Development Team (NCDT), which is headed by Shell Global OEM Technical Manager, Dan Arcy, who was elected Chair after decades of involvement with the body. Dan is responsible for technical relationships with major equipment manufacturers in the US market and worked on the NCDT alongside Jason Brown, Shell Global Technology Manager for Heavy-Duty Engine Oil (see breakout box). “When OEMs develop new engines, Shell is right there developing lubes at the same time, testing them alongside the manufacturers,” Paul adds.

Increasingly complex engines run hotter and put oil under more pressure to lubricate, cool, clean and protect the equipment for longer periods of time. As such, Shell’s CK-4 oil offering, Shell Rimula, boasts improved performance in three major testing areas: Shear stability, which measures how the oil maintains its viscosity in use, oxidation, which is how well the oil resists breakdown over time, and aeration, which is the control of microscopic air bubbles.

“Oil drain intervals are getting longer and longer, which places more stress on the oil and can lead to greater oil breakdown over time,” he says. “For example, if the oil does not provide adequate shear stability, it becomes thinner in use, which opens up the engine to more wear, so ensuring the oils maintain their qualities in shear stability, oxidation and aeration means they can work in the higher temperatures, and high stress environment of modern, low emission engines.”

Improving shear stability is possible depending on the quality of the base oil as well as the types and amount of Viscosity Index (VI) improvers (see breakout box) that are used, Paul says. “Also, the better resistance to oxidation and aeration control, the longer the operator can go between oil drains, saving money both in the amount of oil used, and the amount of time off the road in maintenance,” Paul says.

Part of the Shell Rimula CK-4 specification development process involved extensive on-road testing both globally and locally in Australia, with several million kilometres clocked on the oil. “Australian operators deserve proof because our conditions are unique and harsh,” Paul says. “Interestingly, every country likes to think they have the worst conditions, but in terms of on-highway transport, Australia has the biggest, heaviest cargoes going the longest distances in hot, dusty climates. Shell globally comes to Australia because of the unique conditions that we have here and looks to our market for durability testing of Heavy Duty Diesel Engine Oils.”

Paul adds that Shell invests over US$1 billion ($1.64 billion) in research and development, resulting in a CK-4 standard oil that doesn’t just meet, but exceed the requirements set by the API. “Shell Rimula is a premium product backed by the market leader in engine oil technology and products,” Paul says. “Other oils will meet the requirements set by CK-4, or there’s Shell Rimula, which truly exceeds the standards.”

Although the current Australian Design Rule (ADR) 80/03 for emissions standards are still behind some parts of the world – roughly aligning with Euro V and equivalent – Paul says CK-4 oils offer the Australian road transport industry an opportunity to realise substantial operational benefits even before the standards change.

“One of the great things with CK4 is that
it’s backwards compatible, so it can be used on existing fleets, whether they’re mixed fleets of trucks five or 10 years old,” Paul says. “You don’t have to wait for new emissions regulations to get the benefits from CK-4 today.
“There’s a big opportunity to reduce Total Cost of Ownership (TCO, ed.) by rationalising the product range of oils used across the fleet. There is value having just one product available to meet mixed fleets rather than two or three, such as helping reducing human error due to confusion in the workshops and saving space on the workshop floor.”

Rationalising the oil used can go a step further by using Shell Rimula as part of a suite of products offered by Viva Energy, as well as what Viva adds in from supply chain, logistics, technical help perspective, Paul says. “The 30-people strong Shell Rimula team is spread across Australia, they can go help fleets in the oil transition, as well as do testing to extend and monitor for drain intervals,” he says. “We have a full range for transport customers, including transmission oils for both manual and auto transmissions, axle oils, hydraulic oils, power steering oil and coolant, so fleet operators can order from the one source.”

CK-4 is ready right now and backwards compatible, but it isn’t the only oil specification in the new category, Paul adds. A second spec, FA-4, is a future focused oil that will be able to realise an even wider range of benefits for both operators and the environment. “CK-4 is focused on emissions, and the next focus is on carbon dioxide through fuel economy – that’s where FA-4 comes in. It still has the same durability but uses a lower viscosity. Thinner oil means less resistance, which will improve fuel economy. Shell Rimula isn’t just ready to help fleets now, but well into the future as engines evolve in line with emissions regulations.”

Source: Environmental Protection Agency, European Environment Agency, US Department of Commerce National Center for Environmental Administration.

Viscosity Index (VI)
When engine oils were first used, they came out of the ground and into the engine with minimal processing. Because oil viscosity of varies with temperature change, different kinds of oil with different thicknesses were required for different times of the year.  To make oil that was less sensitive to temperature changes, oil companies started using Viscosity Index (VI) improvers. VI improvers are susceptible to shearing when they’re put through the paces in moving parts of the engines and can’t recover.

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