(Article published in L’Automobile Mechanic magazine, February 2024)

By Éric Descarries

Every year, the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) invites the sponsors of its main event, the Test Fest, to take part in this meeting where products are presented and tested.

It’s an invitation the Shell-Pennzoil group never turns down and again this year, this international company took the opportunity to talk to us about petroleum products. Once again, they’ve delegated one of their top specialists in the field to address AJAC members on a popular topic. That specialist is Sean Nguyen, and this time, he came to talk to us about the future of synthetic oils.

Already, motor oils have gone through so many improvements that today, they not only contribute to the most reliable operation of engines, but also enable these mechanical parts to be more fuel-efficient. Nowadays, oil companies such as Shell deploy a wealth of imagination and product development efforts to achieve convincing results, the most obvious of which are synthetic oils.

The Dominance of Synthetic Oils

In fact, synthetic oils have almost completely dethroned mineral oils, to the point where Nguyen predicts that the time is almost upon us when some 99% of internal-combustion engine vehicles will use synthetic oils. He adds that even entry-level synthetic oils will outperform the best mineral oils. And yet, twenty years ago, the rumour was that synthetic oils would never replace them!

Even Finer Viscosities

According to Nguyen, we haven’t seen anything yet! For example, in the past, the compatibility of synthetic and mineral oils was thought to be impossible, but those days are gone. In the early ’90s, automakers reached an agreement requiring oil companies to develop lubricants that help reduce fuel consumption and protect the environment. The result was the creation of ILSAC (International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee) and its most recent recommendation, ILSAC-6 (also known as GF-6A and B), has already been adopted. Created in 2020, this measure seeks to reduce oil viscosity according to manufacturers’ research, while GF-6B products identify 0-W-16 viscosity oils (but only for the latest vehicles, while GF-6A covers older ones).

What’s next, according to Nguyen? The GF-7 standard, starting in 2026. These oils will be more efficient, consume less energy and better protect certain components such as ignition chains. What’s more, he even mentioned the possibility of a shared oil between the engine and gearbox, which is what automakers are aiming for these days, as they want to integrate these components into a single entity. The only negative note is that, despite their compatibility, it will be difficult to recycle synthetic oils that have been mixed with mineral oils.


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