In December, we will see the introduction of API CK-4 and FA-4; a development which represents the biggest industry overhaul in heavy duty engine oil specifications for decades.
Driven by changes in environmental policy, and the need to support the rapid development of heavy duty vehicle technology, the new specifications set a new standard for diesel engine lubricants. With just a couple of months to go until these new oils are available, now is the time for heavy equipment operators to prepare for the transition.
What is different about the new oils?
Compared to oils currently on the market, API FA-4 oils are notably thinner, or lower viscosity. This reduces the amount of viscous drag from the oil in the engine, allowing them to run more efficiently and use less fuel. API CK-4 licensed oils will offer backwards compatibility, allowing use in the vast majority of older diesel engine vehicles that ran previous oil categories (CJ-4, CI-4 Plus, CI-4 etc.).
Both oil categories are also set to be more robust and resistant to oxidation. This has become necessary in recent years as newer engines are designed to run at higher temperature in order to improve operating efficiency However, higher temperatures accelerate the rate of oxidation and oil thickening. Improving oxidation resistance may mean that, alongside proper oil filtration longer oil drain intervals may be achieved.
Finally, and of particular relevance to mining fleet operators, CK-4 and FA-4 oils are designed to improve resistance to aeration and increased shear stability. Improving aeration control (i.e. resistance to foaming) is important for off-road engines where, in some cases, more air than usual could become entrained in the engine oil. A high level of air entrainment is dangerous, particularly at the bearings where a suitable oil film is critical to protect them.
Taken together, these design improvements will provide enhanced performance, greater hardware protection, and may reduce vehicle downtime – a major source of financial drain for fleet operators. However, it is crucial that mining fleet operators understand which sub-category will be most suitable for their vehicles.
Moreover, users will benefit from the increased robustness of CK-4 oils over the previous and current CJ-4 oils, enabling increased performance and protection gains.
Meanwhile, API FA-4 oils will be specifically designed for newer on-road engine designs which aim to meet the new legislation around emissions and fuel economy. However, feedback from engine manufacturers has shown that only some of the on-road Class 8 engine producers will take advantage of new FA-4 oils at the start of the category.
As such, FA-4 oils are not expected to have an immediate impact on mining fleets and off-road OEMs will likely recommend use of CK-4 oils.
The API has recently announced the introduction of a special service ‘donut’ symbol to help consumers identify the FA-4 and CK-4 diesel engine oils right from the packaging label. All heavy duty operators will need to consult their engine OEMs for specific guidance regarding the recommended viscosity grade for their engines and which oils will be best suited for their business.
Time to prepare
At Petro-Canada Lubricants, we see the introduction of CK-4 and FA-4 as not only an opportunity to improve the efficiency and carbon footprint of mining fleets, but also a chance to recognize the potential to cut costs and increase profitability.
While every fleet business will be affected by the new specifications, the impact will vary depending on the size and type of fleet.
At this point, many OEMs still haven’t announced whether API FA-4 and/or API CK-4 oils will be required for 2017 and newer trucks. It is likely that many fleets owners will be able to use only API CK-4 oils. More will be known closer to December 1, 2016.
In the meantime, it is essential that operators begin preparations now to ensure that they are suitably equipped ahead of the December 2016 launch.
Brian Humphrey is OEM Technical Liaison, Petro-Canada Lubricants, Suncor.