New Standards to Fight Substandard Engine Oils in the Offing

The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), together with the petroleum products marketers and manufacturers have resumed the process of developing standards for engine oils.

This is aimed at ensuring that the oils currently on the market and those to be introduced in future meet the standards that are relevant to today’s technologies, consumer needs and environmental concerns.

Currently, Uganda uses the US 249 Standard. But experts and manufacturers say that the standard is obsolete and needs a review, which was halted last year. The suspension of the process followed the launch of the revision of the East African Standard for Engine Oil (EAS 159:2022) because the regional standard takes precedence over the national standards.

Currently, the available EA Standard (EAS 159:2000)  is outdated and does not take into account modern automotive technologies and is therefore under review “to provide minimum requirements relevant to changing technological developments and consumer expectations.”

David Livingstone Ebiru, the Executive Director at UNBS, says that the idea to review the Uganda standard was mooted after a clash between importers of lubricants and officials clashed as the latter were enforcing regulations at the border.  

The EAC is also in the process of harmonizing the standards in the region, including the engine oil standards to ensure smooth trade. Ebiru says that UNBS has to get the new standards in place before the EAC process to harmonise the regional standards is completed so that aspects of the national standards are taken care of in the harmonized standard.

Engine oil quality requirements are guided by independent specialist institutions or automobile bodies like American Petroleum Institute-API, European Automobile Manufacturers Association-ACEA, Japanese Automotive Standards Organization-JASO and International Lubricant Specification Advisory Committee- ILSA specifications, or Manufacturers’ approvals.

This helps the manufacturers to ensure that what is put on the market is the proper type of oil. However, with the changing technology and environmental issues, as well as public health demands, there is a need to ensure that new products are improved to match those demands.

Henry Richard Kimera of Consumer Centre, CONSENT, says the problem with Uganda is the need to make a profit without caring about the effects of their activities, blaming both motorists and dealers of oils.

While welcoming the move to have an operational or enforceable standard, Kimera said that the same focus used to enforce the regulations on fuel standards at petrol stations should be applied when UNBS is enforcing the engine oils standards. He specifically blamed the absence of regulation of motor oils for the low quality of air, especially in areas with high numbers of motor vehicles.  

Ebiru assured that the new standards are being developed or renewed with environmental concerns in mind. The review is mainly aimed at setting minimum API classification requirements for diesel and petrol engine oils, recognition of different classification systems other than API, like ACEA and ISO, as well as including viscosity (thickness) grade requirements for multi-grade oil.

There will also be a provision to show proof that the formulation and additive package used conforms to the claimed API classification. Ebiru adds that the new standards will ensure the minimum emission expected when a certain oil is used in a vehicle.  

The dealers, including manufacturers, importers and distributors welcomed the move of the standards as long overdue. According to motoring standards, engine oils are continually updated to provide greater protection and fuel efficiency, accommodate engine design improvements, and so address the concern over the environmental impact of engine exhaust emissions.

When this is done, according to Andrew Othieno, Manager Standards, UNBS, the oils have the ability to protect engines from wear and heating while still delivering good fuel economy with low emissions.

Improved oils need fewer car servicing, therefore, reducing the amount of waste oil that would rather be circulated into the environment and in turn, the user meets lower maintenance costs.

However, Anthony Ogalo, General Manager of the Association of Petroleum Marketing Professionals of Uganda, says the market is always distorted by importers of fake and substandard products and those that recycle used engine oil.

On the effect of using low-grade oils, the standards body says it leads to increased costs of vehicle maintenance and repairs because using obsolete service oils may cause increased engine wear, catalyst poisoning, and filtered particle blocking as well as increased piston deposits.

Some obsolete oils can cause unsatisfactory performance causing damage to systems that result in the increased emissions of toxic substances that damage the environment Bitamale Olive of M-Power Oil, manufacturers and importers of engine oils, welcomes the idea of updated standards, saying that there are many players in the industry but do not know what to do.

The standards are also being revised in preparation of the anticipated oil production by Uganda in 2025, and CEO Ebiru says this will help Ugandan products fit into the international market.

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