The increasing prevalence of biodiesel will continue to impact the Brazilian heavy-duty market. For fleets old and new, higher-performing lubricants will have an important role for vehicle performance and bottom-line benefits.

The heavy-duty diesel market in Brazil has shifted toward the utilization of biodiesel fuels in recent years, and not without good reason. The shift has enabled the country to take greater advantage of its own natural resources and cut reliance on imported traditional diesel fuel, all while making significant reductions in nationwide emissions. According to Brazil’s Empresa de Pesquisa Energética (EPE), it’s estimated that biodiesel usage helped reduce the amount of CO2 by about 9.6 million tons nationally.

And we are not turning back. The Brazilian government has announced plans for a gradual increase of the renewable component used in biodiesel in the commercial transportation sector. By 2019, biofuels will hit B10–10% renewable content–making Brazil a global leader in biodiesel use for heavy-duty trucks.

But there are considerations that must be made along with this shift. One of the most important is the impact biodiesel fuels have on heavy-duty engine oil performance. The country’s heavy-duty fleet population is broad and diverse. While newer fleets are protected by OEM-recommended higher-performance engine oils, older fleets often rely on specifications that do not account for high biodiesel content.

But older vehicles stand to benefit from a broader industry acceptance of higher-performance engine oils. Here’s why:

Impacts of Biodiesel on the Lubricant
The renewable component in Brazilian biodiesel fuels has traditionally been sourced from soybeans, one of the most plentiful natural resources in the country. However, as the renewable component ratio in biofuels increases toward 2019, additional raw material components will be introduced to biodiesel blends to meet that goal. These materials will include animal fats, cotton, and other fatty materials.

This diversification is beneficial in broad terms, allowing biodiesels to be blended using a variety of sources instead of being completely dependent on a single source. It also tapes into bio materials from regions of the country, reducing the cost of transporting the fuel.

However, an increased biodiesel component using new resources creates complexity and challenges for the engine oil. It has been shown that an increased renewable component in biodiesel tends to accelerate lubricant oxidation. Additionally, field tests have demonstrated that fuel dilution tends to occur at higher rates in fuels with higher biodiesel components, imposing more challenges to oxidative stability.

Lubricant oxidation can lead to several destructive issues within the engine, including viscosity increases, sludge buildup and overall oil degradation. These issues have the effect of reducing the flow of oil within the engine, which can lead to catastrophic consequences that must be avoided.

Lubricant Performance in Brazil
The issues posed by oxidative instability in biofuels tend to disproportionately affect older fleets adhering to the minimum-performance API specifications in the country.

In past years, older fleets choose oils that meet API CG-4 performance. And for the most part, a lubricant meeting API CG-4 requirements meets the needs of those older vehicles—but only when those vehicles are using traditional diesel fuels. Biodiesels complicate the picture with their higher oxidation risk, and as biodiesels continue growing in prominence and as the renewable component increases, the challenges will grow more pressing.

This year, though, API CH-4 will replace API CG-4 as the minimum required performance level in the Brazilian lubricant market. This is good news for the market, as API CH-4 lubricants generally provide an enhanced level of oxidative stability, even when interacting with biofuels. Oxidation performance required by API CH-4 is higher than that of API CG-4, demonstrated per the Sequence IIIF oxidation test. API CH-4 requires maximum oxidative-related viscosity increases reach no more than 295%, compared with the 325% limit in API CG-4.

However, another complication arises, as not all API CH-4 formulations are the same. API Group I base stocks remain common in the marketplace. These base stocks are inherently less oxidatively stable than the slightly more expensive API Group II base stocks, and compromise the higher oxidative stability brought by API CH-4.  Simply, there is room for formulation improvements under API CH-4, but only when the proper quality base stocks are used. For older vehicles that rely on the minimum recommended performance quality, this will be a critical challenge.

Overcoming the Challenges with Higher Performance
For fleet operators in Brazil, the stakes of higher-performance in the face of increasing biodiesel use are clear.

Lower overall operational costs are a major goal for fleet owners, and that goal can be achieved by keeping trucks on the road for longer periods of time. But to realize these benefits, higher-performing lubricants must be made more readily available, and the benefits must be made clear. There is opportunity for all stakeholders when this happens. By formulating lubricants to higher API standards using Group II base stocks, oil marketers can achieve higher margins with a higher quality product. And by purchasing higher-performance products, fleet owners can recoup costs through greater bottom-line benefits driven by downtime reduction via longer service intervals and maintenance needs. All the while, OEMs can remain confident that their hardware is living up to its potential in the field.

The need for higher-performing lubricants is clear, and so is the benefit for all stakeholders. Oil marketers can stay ahead with formulations that overcome the challenges posed by biodiesel.

For those seeking to upgrade their product portfolio with higher-performing formulations for the commercial market, Lubrizol provides its support with formulation expertise, an extensive range of additive solutions, and global reach to help meet your needs.

For more information about Lubrizol’s solutions for the heavy-duty diesel market, visit