American Petroleum Institute raises red flags for counterfeit, obsolete oils

From American Petroleum Institute Senior Project Manager – EOLCS/DEF Jeffrey Harmening … Using high-quality parts to repair a truck is essential to keep it running safely and help prevent future breakdowns. Working with a trusted supplier and the ability to examine the packaging and the part or product helps provide assurance fleet operators are getting what they ordered. When you receive or purchase engine oil in bulk, it’s also important to work with a trusted supplier. However, having the confidence that you have received the brand and viscosity grade you ordered is hard to confirm. Fortunately, the American Petroleum Institute has a critically important program in place to protect the purchaser and end consumers.

API develops motor oil standards and certifies gas and diesel oils, while working to make certain that the proper oils are going into engines. API 1525A – Bulk Engine Oil Chain of Custody and Quality Documentation has been developed to protect the quality of the oil throughout the supply chain for all parties involved with delivering finished bulk engine oil to fleets. This process ultimately protects vehicle repair shops, dealers, businesses that maintain their own vehicles and equipment, and consumers from the blending of oil to it being poured into an engine.

All parties involved with supplying finished bulk engine oil to shops have a role in protecting the quality of the product throughout the supply chain. Responsibility for quality starts with the oil manufacturer or marketer and ends with the installer. The blender, the transporter/distributor and the installer that originally ordered the product have a role in ensuring the quality of the engine oil received matches the quality ordered. API 1525A describes the requirements incumbent upon each of these roles to ensure engine oil quality is maintained. The bottom line is that you can be assured that the bulk oil you are pouring is the quality and viscosity grade expected when API 1525A requirements are met.

Aftermarket Audit. API has been testing packaged and bulk engine oils under its Aftermarket Audit Program for many years as a means of monitoring and enforcement of oils in the marketplace, testing thousands of samples in that time. This enables API to accomplish its main objective of monitoring API-licensed oils in the marketplace but also provides the opportunity to scan the marketplace for oils that may falsely claim to be licensed by API and/or display the API Engine Oil Quality Marks (the Donut, Starburst and Shield) without a license to do so.

Counterfeit oils. When API encounters oils falsely claiming API licensing, they are collected and tested to determine conformance with the performance level claimed. If a licensed oil does not match the physical and chemical data on file, API will work with the licensee to evaluate all nonconformances and take appropriate corrective action. For serious cases, such as when products fail to meet the specifications claimed, API requires immediate discontinuation of the use of the API Marks and will exhaust all available options to ensure that the marketer removes their “counterfeit” products from the marketplace. API maintains a list of unauthorized engine oils at and provides details and images to alert consumers to oils falsely claiming to be licensed by API.

Obsolete oil. It’s also important to be aware of obsolete engine oil that doesn’t meet the most current engine oil standards—ILSAC GF-6A and ILSAC GF-6B for gasoline and API CK-4 and API FA-4 for diesel engines. These are oils that claim to meet an older engine oil performance category that has been technically determined to be obsolete. Categories can become obsolete when the test methods are no longer available to verify performance. If the production of an engine or the hardware required for a specific performance test is discontinued, the test itself becomes unavailable, and performance categories specifying that test can be determined to be technically obsolete.

The API Motor Oil Guide summarizes both active and obsolete ILSAC and API performance categories. Obsolete oil products can still be found in the marketplace; shops and drivers should be careful not to use them as engine damage could occur. API strongly recommends following engine or vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations when choosing oils. If you have older vehicles or equipment which may have specified an oil with a performance now designated as obsolete, current ILSAC GF-6A and API CK-4 performance categories are designed to be backward compatible with previous categories; however, always check directly with the OEM for specific recommendations.

The American Petroleum Institute’s new Technical Report (TR) 1533, Lubricants Life Cycle Assessment and Carbon Footprinting – Methodology and Best Practice promotes harmonization and consistency in the application of LCA and carbon emissions accounting. 

“As sustainability has become a global focus across all industries, there is a need for the lubricants industry to have a clearly defined, consensus-based document capturing the broadly accepted terminology and methodology for life cycle analysis of lubricant products,” says API Senior Program Manager, Engine Oil Licensing & Certification System Jeffrey Harmening. “Customers are increasingly asking lubricant marketers for sustainability metrics; developing guidelines for calculating metrics became a critical area for API to focus on as the industry seeks to reduce and evaluate greenhouse gas emissions.”


Source: API TR 1533 Life Cycle Assessment and Carbon Footprints of Products

API TR 1533 addresses the need for clear and accepted guidelines and terminology which will instill confidence in the reported metrics coming from oil marketers who will be better equipped to substantiate their own data and sustainability reporting. The lubricant-focused methodology will not only provide guidance for the lubricant producers but also give their customers additional confidence in the data they receive. The report will also help to move toward harmonized practices and to reduce individual requirements across global markets. 

API TR 1533 Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Carbon Footprints of Products (CFP) are established methodologies used to quantify the environmental performance of products, processes, or services, and are increasingly being used as a basis for environmental decision-making along the supply chain. LCA includes multiple impact categories while CFP focuses specifically on the impact category of “climate change,” which is associated with greenhouse gas emissions/removals.

The API Lubricants Group began this work in June 2021, gathering subject matter experts to define terminology and outline the methodology for LCA assessment of lubricants in the marketplace. API will continue to work with industry experts to further refine this document with a view to developing an API Standard in the future.