• American Petroleum Institute - The DL S4E11

    American Petroleum Institute - The DLS4E11 is now available on your favorite podcast app! 

    In this episode of The DL, Diesel Laptops’ Founder and CEO, Tyler Robertson, is joined by Jeffrey Harmening, Team Lead at American Petroleum Institute.

    For more than 90 years, API has led the development of petroleum, natural gas and petrochemical equipment and operating standards. These represent the industry’s collective wisdom on everything from drill bits to environmental protection and embrace proven, sound engineering and operating practices and safe, interchangeable equipment and materials. API maintains more than 800 standards and recommended practices. Many have been incorporated into state and federal regulations and they are also the most widely cited standards by the international regulatory community.

    As always, thank you for watching and listening!

    Connect with Jeffrey Harmening and API:

    LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/company/americanpetroleuminstitute/

    Websitehttp://www.api.org/

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    Transcript for American Petroleum Institute - The DL S4E11:

    Tyler Robertson:

    All right, everyone. First of all, again, thank you for coming back and listening to The DL. This is one of those episodes where I was first like, "I don't know. I'll Learn something about these guys." But as I dug into it, I was like, "Man, this is actually some really important stuff."

    And this is what I love about the podcast, is I get to sit down for 20, 30, 40 minutes, and I talk to these people before we air, after we air, but just being able to have conversations with industry experts like this is just really, really surreal in my mind. So I hope, and actually, I know if you listen to this, you're going to come away with a little bit of information and know something that you never knew before.

    So API, the American Petroleum Institute, they are the ones setting the standards out there for engine oils, def fluid. They're the ones helping the cause to try to lower the cost of energy for all the fuel that we're using out there. It's a huge organization. I'm super honored that they took some time out to work with us over here on The DL. So with all that, I will let you watch the episode. And again, like, comment, share, all that stuff helps us. Enjoy the show.

    Welcome to another episode of The DL. I am your host, Tyler Robertson, the CEO and founder of Diesel Laptops. This is the podcast show where we talk about everything going on in the commercial truck, the off-highway equipment, the diesel-powered industry. And today, we're going to get into the weeds here, because I was a service manager before and I used to see all these acronyms on oils and lubricants. I never quite knew what they meant. You kind of know a little bit, enough to be dangerous. We're going to talk about that. We're going to talk this in-depth. So it's going to be a really interesting conversation. I already learned a lot just doing my pre-research, so I'm really excited to bring an expert on here. So today, we have Jeff with us from the American Petroleum Institute, or API as we like to call it. So Jeff, welcome to The DL, man, pleasure to have you here.

    Jeff:

    Hey, I'm glad to be here. And I just love the name of your podcast, well chosen.

    Tyler Robertson:

    Well, thank you. We'll give our original person here props for that. So it's worked out well for us. So when I first got connected with you, I was like, "Who the heck is the API?" And you're a pretty good sized organization, so can we just explain to everyone who is API and what do you guys do?

    Jeff:

    Yeah. Well, we do an awful lot as you alluded to. First of all, first and foremost, API represents oil and natural gas industries. We have over 600 members we support, and basically our industry supports 11 million jobs. So we do everything from standards development. We've been around over a hundred years. We started as an organization developing standards shortly after World War I when everybody realized that everybody did things differently. Standardization became a big topic in the field of the oil field, so that's where we cut our teeth.

    Here now, 102 some years later, we've been not only continuing with that standards development, but we've also, as you know, developed engine oil performance standards, working closely with OEMs and industry to develop each in every category that you guys are familiar with in the shops. And also, developing a licensing and certification program that's now over 30 years old to ensure that high quality lubricants are out there and available to consumers.

    So I've been with the program for about 12 years. I started working with our Aftermarket Audit Program. This is the program that basically supports the licensing program, where we're out in the aftermarket buying bottles, filling up jugs in quick lubes and diesel shops, and testing those oils to ensure that they meet the claims that they carry. So now I'm managing the programs, and we've come a long way in the last 12 years and we're going a long way, especially with currently developing the next set of diesel engine oils.

    Tyler Robertson:

    So you're in charge, I believe, of the Engine Oil Licensing and Certification Program. What exactly is that and why is it important?

    Jeff:

    Yeah. So it's a voluntary program that we run, where oil marketers and manufacturers alike can seek to become licensed by API to use the API registered trademarks. And for those who don't know, that's the API Donut or the service symbol, which is usually found on the back of the bottles. If you walk down any aisle in a local parts store, you'll see it on the back. But also, we have the API certification mark Starburst, which represents oils that meet the latest gasoline engine oil categories. And of course, we ultimately license diesel engine oils as well.

    So these marketers that sign up to join will disclose to us very specific information about the formulations used to fill their products. If you think of a large global company for instance, they have different sources of supply in different parts of the world. We require them to basically license each and every one of those formulations. So then, we can test it in the aftermarket and compare our results with the results that they've reported to us during licensing, and just ensure that these products meet the performance specifications that are desperately required by the OEMs. You can flip to the oil manual in pretty much any one of our vehicles and see, in the oil section, one of the API marks.

    Tyler Robertson:

    Yeah. So is there a problem in the industry with people... I guess there's different oils made... The oil coming from the sands of Canada is different from the oils in the well of Texas, I would guess, right? And they have to meet a certain standard for whatever application. Is this a thing just to instill confidence in everyone, like, "Hey, this is a good quality product." Is that the main goal that you're trying to get across?

    Jeff:

    No. And in fact, really, your question comes down to, "What's in a lubricant?" A lubricant is essentially a base stock that's refined from crude, regardless of where the source comes. And it can even come from recycled engine oils for that matter. And then, it's necessary for the additive companies to provide an additive package that will give it the performance that you need. Now that's not to be confused with the aftermarket additives. This is literally the other chemical components that go into the base stock to give it multi-viscosity properties, just to name one thing.

    So really, the need for the program, if you look at where we've been, especially over the last 25 years with EPA regulations coming down the pike not only for the on-highway, but the off-highway diesels as well as gasoline, the OEMs have needed to find ways to meet these emissions targets. And certainly, engine oil has been intrinsic to that process. And these oils should today be considered really a technology just like a sensor on your... It's that important. And that's the big driver for ensuring that the quality of these engine oils is good out there among the marketplace. So we've got over 800 companies licensed. Individually, I think we've licensed over 24,000 products. If you go check our Engine Oil License Directory, this is beyond just the need to ensure quality. It really is a check and balance system as well.

    Tyler Robertson:

    Yeah. So you mentioned the emissions thing, and I was thinking earlier before this podcast, "I remember back in the day, a Cummins N14, so going back to the nineties, those engines, you had to change the oil every 15,000 miles. That's what the OEM recommended." And then I was like, "Man, let me go look at the maintenance intervals on today's engines." So I looked up like the Cummins X15, so their big, popular 15-liter. And in a light duty application, that thing can go 75,000 miles without needing oil change based on the OEM recommendation. So something's changed, right? What's changed? Has technology and the oils been getting that much better? Is it the engine manufacturer machining better? What's changed to allow these longer intervals and have better quality?

    Jeff:

    It's all of the above, really. The engine technology has come a long way. You've got very specific and important needs. I'm not an engine builder or anything, or designer for that matter, but tolerances within the engine are being decreased, and that puts a higher onus on the lubricants themselves. And so, the oil marketers, with the additive companies and OEMs alike, have successively developed higher performing engine oils, not only to maintain backwards compatibility for those older models that might specify an older category like CI4 or CJ4, but to ensure that it will meet the needs of the coming engine park.

    And as I alluded to before, we're in the process, we call it PC-12, proposed category 12, of developing the next diesel engine oil category, working with all these stakeholders to meet the needs. They're asking for us to first license these types of oils in 2027 to sort of correspond with the next set of on-highway GHG regulations. And again, lubricants is a super important part of the package. With higher operating temperatures and different cycle times, these lubricants have had to evolve to be able to handle these very unique and myriad situations in the duty cycle.

    Tyler Robertson:

    Yeah. So you mentioned a bunch of acronyms there, right? So just for the audience, you mentioned GHG, greenhouse gas. My assumption is, is this new PC-12 category of engine oil is to meet the new 2027 standards for the emissions coming off vehicles and everything. So, how important of a role has oil played in this entire emission thing that's been happening since 2004? Because first we had EGR, then we had DPF, then we had SCR, and all these things have kept happening. And I know people really don't talk about the oil a lot, but from my understanding, the oil industry had to change to make all this stuff happen.

    Jeff:

    Yeah. It's been integral in every step of the way. The one thing I can promise you, a trend that has been here for a number of standardization cycles, but will be here through the near future, is the trends toward using low viscosity or lower viscosity oils. So where some of your older guys in the shop might be used to sticking 15W-40, or maybe they thought 10W-30 was a big stretch, well, believe it or not, being closely related to what they're considering in the next category, the trend is going down into the 5W-30s and beyond for these newer technology engines that are going to be expected to meet these greenhouse gas emissions targets.

    And you can't do it without improving the oil. The lower viscosity you have, the lower... Oil, while being a lubricant, is also something that pushes back against the engine as well. So with lower viscosities, you're getting less pushback. And the technology of the ingredients in those oils has risen, so that even though engines are still getting small tolerances, are getting tighter, even at those very low viscosity, oils are still able to move around all parts of the engine compartment that it needs to effectively lubricate the application.

    Tyler Robertson:

    Yeah. And one of the other things you mentioned was additives, right? So I worked at an OEM dealer, and we were like, "Additives stay away." OEM doesn't recommend it. Do you guys get into the testing of the additives or in those conversations? What's your stance on the additive situation? Because to me, a lot of them are like, "Is it smoke and mirrors? Is it snake oil?" You just don't know, right? There's not a lot of confidence behind that stuff, at least for me.

    Jeff:

    Yeah. I would say that we take the same tack that you used to back in the day. We certainly do not recommend aftermarket additives into your typical oil treatment. And I'm not trying to bad mouth that industry or not, but in our recommendation, when we get asked this question, you have to think about the downstream impacts that adding something aftermarket could potentially have on specific aspects of a formulation that's designed to meet modern performance levels. And unless those additives are heavily tested to ensure that they're not tweaking any of the properties of the engine oils that could be detrimental to the system, we just take the stance that it's not recommended, very simply also, because the OEMs still do that as well.

    Tyler Robertson:

    Yeah. Yeah. No, we were always shocked when people buy a brand new $150,000, $200,000 truck and they're dumping in something to it that we're like, "What are you guys doing here?" Right? "That's an expensive thing you're playing with." So interesting to hear that. And I know you have another website, the MOM website, the motoroilmatters.org website. What is that website?

    Jeff:

    Yeah. Well, Motor Oil Matters is a program that that API has that essentially licenses installers, so quick lubes, other mom and pop shops that meet certain chain of custody requirements, which we have published for free on our website in API 1525A. But it just raises the level of accountability at all parts down the distribution chain, from the time that the oil leaves the manufacturer through its distribution levels, down to the consumer, of ensuring that you are accurately recording the order and providing exactly what that order entails, right down to the viscosity grade, right down to the performance level, whether that's API performance or a European performance or even an OEM standard. All of these things, and brand names for that matter, need to be reported down the chain of custody so that me, as a customer that could potentially roll into a quick lube, can have a piece of paper at the end that says exactly what was installed in my engine instead of just four quarts of oil.

    Tyler Robertson:

    So one of the stats I saw right on the front page of that website was one out of five bulk oil API tests fails for these. What's going on out there? Why are they failing? Is it poor quality, poor storage, poor chain of, who owns that thing? What's happening?

    Jeff:

    Yeah. There's a couple things going on there. First of all, that data is some years old. So we still see those trends, that bulk engine oils can be expected to fail more often. And there are different levels of failure. But for us, if it's not meeting the specification and doesn't meet that licensed fingerprint that they put on file with us, we consider that a failure.

    So I'll give you a perfect example of what can be going on. If somebody at a lube center is changing over their oil tanks and they're not properly cleaning it out or having their supplier drain out the 10W-30 and install 5W-30, you end up with co-mingling of different products that can affect the properties of the engine oil, especially on my side, the analytical side, when I'm talking about that license fingerprint. Obviously, these various metals that we measure don't check out when we actually test the products.

    So that's just one example. I've seen and heard it all, from things with suppliers maybe not sucking back in the tank what's left in the hose, and ending up putting a glut of 15W-40 into something that's a lighter vis. All of this is just imperative to support what you support, and that is education around why it's important to consider managing your own shops to avoid those types of scenarios, and also do so by making sure that your suppliers are following the right procedures. And so, I really respect what Diesel Laptops is embarking on here.

    Tyler Robertson:

    You kind of piqued my interest when you said cleaning tanks. And I was just thinking back to my service manager days. I don't think we ever cleaned our tanks. I'm guessing now that you said that, there's probably some recommended practice we should have been doing. So for the audience listening here, if there's a diesel repair shop or whoever, is there a recommendation how often they should have those things looked at, inspected, tested, cleaned, any of that?

    Jeff:

    Well, it's geared more for the distributors and above, but there is useful information in one of our standards, which is available for free on our website. It's called API 1525, not the one with the A at the end. And this one really describes recommended practices for bulk engine oil handling, transportation, and storage. So there's useful information there for anybody involved in that supply chain, for sure.

    Tyler Robertson:

    Well, the other thing I know is kind of under your purview over there at API is DEF fluid, because it's exhaust fluid. So I know you're the API Institute. How did you guys get into DEF? How does that fall under the mission of API?

    Jeff:

    Well, this is going to sound like we're tooting our own horn, but the Engine Oil Licensing Program has been around for many years, and it's quite relied upon. Even the EPA certifies engines based on what type of lubricants they're going to be specifying and things of that nature. That all plays into the annual certification process for everybody's fleet of engine park, shall we say. So the EPA is well aware of API. In fact, they were right down the street from us when we were at the old office location here in DC.

    So that whenever SCR really took off in the 2009, 2010 timeframe, and once Navistar actually started using SCR as well, the big concern was, "Can industry put together the network, the infrastructure required to ensure that DEF not only meets the specifications but is available to all these on-highway guys. They're going to be forced to use it.

    And they asked us to model a licensing program for diesel exhaust fluid based on that model. And while it's mainly a North American licensing program, because some of the other parts of the world have their own specs and licensing bodies, it still has over 100 licensees, with over 200 and some odd products licensed. So whereas the engine oil program is global, this is mainly focused in North America and a few scattered countries outbound, but that's why we got into it. And the need for it is continuously important as more and more demand for SCR grows. As everybody's trying to reduce their carbon footprints, it only gets more important.

    Tyler Robertson:

    Yeah. You mentioned infrastructure there. I was around then when SCR first came out, but unfortunately, I was at an international dealer. We were a little late to it. But it was just amazing how the industry actually came together for all that infrastructure. I don't think people realize how much effort had to go into... You guys were on the standard side and the testing side and all that, but it was just having the distribution network, the new tanks, the new products, all the things. It was a monumental task that the industry did, so it was just amazing.

    Jeff:

    Yeah. And look, you can see glimpses of that in today's modern discussion about the conversion of the combustion engine over into EV platforms and others. Those same conversations were happening way back when, and the industry really did come together and solve them in a rapid amount of time. We issued our first license back in March of 2009. That was a full nine months before the on-highway regulations kicked off. So yeah, we've come a long way, baby.

    Tyler Robertson:

    Yeah, we definitely have. So I know DEF, it was a new thing, and everyone was confused on what to do with it. And people didn't know not store it in sunlight or too hot or too cold or had shelf lifes and all these things. Do you feel it's gotten better out there, or do you guys still run across that a lot with contaminated DEF or bad DEF fluid causing problems out there?

    Jeff:

    There are always a handful of products that we sample in the aftermarket. It works a little differently with DEF. We don't have license fingerprints. It's basically a minimum standard spec, ISO 22241 for those who are interested in looking at it. And so, these products are more fungible. In other words, if I make a DEF and you make a DEF, they both mixed together should test out and be a DEF, where you can't say the same thing for viscosity grades of engine oils, for instance.

    So we don't see as many problems on that side. The industry has really taken upon itself to solve all the challenges of supply in a crazy market. I don't think people are aware of it, but before all the geopolitical shifts that have taken over the last few years, a lot of the urea supply that DEF is made from was coming from places like Russia and from China. And obviously, these things are rapidly shifting around and affecting supply. So the DEF industry has been pretty well top notch. And again, we have a licensing program with an aftermarket audit to ensure the quality of those products. We have a API license mark, the DEF certification mark, that maybe some of your listeners who have light duty diesels that use DEF should be encouraged to look for API licensed fluids for use in their vehicles, because it does come with that guarantee.

    Tyler Robertson:

    Yeah. No, that was the question I was going to ask you, right? You want a good quality product.

    Jeff:

    Yes.

    Tyler Robertson:

    There's places to save money and try to find inferior products, and then when you're dealing with engines and emission systems, that is not the place.

    Jeff:

    Right, right. Yes, right.

    Tyler Robertson:

    That's not the place to go save a couple nickels, right?

    Jeff:

    Right. You've got onboard diagnostics, that if the concentration is off or if you flat out just put water in there, you're not going anywhere. Moreover, there are plenty of properties of that DEF. For instance, people think urea, they think fertilizer, and, "I can go in the backyard and mix up a tub of fertilizer with a tub of water." You need a special kind of automotive grade urea, and you need pure water that's distilled, deionized, of a certain type, not tap water, because various metals in tap water can foul the catalyst and cause problems to the SCR. So everybody really worries about, "As long as the concentration is okay, my guys are going to be okay getting across the desert without their engine slowing down on them." It's way more than that. Savvy fleets need to be using high quality DEF to prolong their equipment's lifetime.

    Tyler Robertson:

    Yeah. We get it all the time, right? We've got all these people with all these tools and always hooking up to things and it's always, "I don't know why my truck de-rated." We're like, "Well, that's because your light was on for 10 hours and you're running out of DEF fluid. We can only do so many warning lights and help you so much before you run into a problem."

    But I tell you, it's been great learning about kind of behind the scenes, right? I think we see the labels, we see the names. We don't really understand without diving into it what that means, and the effort that it takes these companies to put these products in place and make sure they're safe, they're reliable. And it's great work that API is doing out there, so we really appreciate it.

    If people want to learn more about API, you mentioned a bunch of documents, and I'm assuming they're on the website. Where do people go if they just want to start getting into more of this?

    Jeff:

    Right. Well, API's main website is api.org, so that's where you can begin. But really, with reference to the Engine Oil Licensing Program, it's just easier to Google "API engine oil." Or if you want to look at our directory and confirm that a potential supplier of your engine oil products is actually licensed, you can Google "API engine oil directory" and or "DEF directory" for that matter, and verify the license status of those companies. And we're always... One of the nice aspects of the specs that we provide on the engine oil side is we make those free for all. This is an industry-wide effort to develop these performance standards, and it's important, therefore, to make them broadly available to everybody. So API 1509 really describes the licensing program and houses all of the nitty gritty specifications around performance, too.

    Tyler Robertson:

    Well, we'll make sure to put a link in the show notes. And I can tell the audience, when I went on the website, it literally is a treasure trove of information and knowledge on there, on everything you ever need to know about these things.

    So again, thank you for coming on the show. We're going to wrap this one up. Remember everyone, it's not just diagnostics, it's diagnostics done right. And you've got to make sure you have good high quality products that you're using. Save pennies somewhere else. Don't save when it comes to critical componentry such as this. API is doing a great job out there, helping make sure we're all safe in buying well-known products that are safe to use. So thank you much, guys. We'll catch you next episode. Like, comment, share, subscribe, it all helps us. See you next time.

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    Ariel Ifill

    Ariel Ifill is an Internet Marketing Specialist for Diesel Laptops where diagnostics are done right. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of South Carolina. Go Cocks! In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, hiking, and cooking.

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