AKIL JHA is Vice President - Technical at Shell Lubricants India
BACKGROUND ON BS VI AND CHALLENGES
The announcement by the Ministry for Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) to move directly to Bharat Stage VI emission norms by April 1, 2020 has forced the Indian automotive industry to undergo a lot of changes. The implementation of BS VI standards has been a hotly-debated topic in the country. While vehicle manufacturers strategise to roll out BS VI-compliant vehicles, a few companies argue that the jump from BS IV to BS VI will be a technological challenge, and that the deadline is too steep.
The government estimates that it will require ' 20,000 cr to upgrade technology to purify gasoline products and another ' 60,000 cr for purification of diesel products. Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), the industry body of automakers in India is against the move, stating that it is unrealistic to implement these standards before 2023. Earlier, the BS VI emission norms were to be implemented by 2024, but with pollution becoming a huge problem nationally, the government has decided to fast-track the implementation by three years.
The sudden decision of skipping Bharat Stage V emission norms is a noble idea, but is very challenging for the automotive and relevant companies to meet the norms at absolutely distinct level. For diesel vehicles, the situation is more difficult as the new norms demand for huge cut on Particulate Matter (PM), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and Hydrocarbons (HC). If this decision would have been taken a bit earlier, it would have been far easier for the stakeholders to plan and be better prepared for the rollout.
Meeting BS VI norms requires a systematic approach to tap improvement in potential areas like engine design, system efficiency, fuel quality, exhaust gas after treatment, etc. to name a few. The draft fuel specifications for BS V and BS VI are almost identical and hence the major investments by oil companies are towards achieving BS V fuel specifications.
LUBRICANTS' EFFECT/ CONTRIBUTION TO EMISSION NORMS
The automotive industry has been working for a long time to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions, with an aim to consequently lower ownership cost, adhere to emission standards and conserve natural resources. Considering the same, lubricants play a critical role in improving the overall system efficiency. Thus, they shall contribute significantly in helping achieve the laid norms for 2020.
Since India is jumping directly to BS VI norms from BS IV, this would prompt major hardware changes from the OEMs to cater to the new emission category, accompanied by significant improvement in fuel quality. Prominent hardware changes shall include introduction of after treatment devices like Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) in combination with reduced levels of Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) – expected reduction of around 5 -10 % – to reduce NOx and usage of Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) to reduce PM emissions.
To cater to these hardware changes, low SAPS (Sulphated Ash, Phosphorous, and Sulphur) lubricants will have to be introduced to be compatible with after treatment devices.
HOW IS THE INDIAN MARKET MOVING TOWARDS BS VI, & SHELL LUBRICANTS?
The Indian automotive market is highly value-driven and with varying conditions. It becomes imperative to address the market requirement by providing significant value proposition to the end consumer. Further, OEMs in India continue to focus on fuel economy by shifting to lower viscosity lubricants, while maintaining same oil drain interval. This poses a significant challenge due to harsher operating environment in India.
Thus, moving ahead towards meeting BS VI norms with fuel-efficiency as a primary requirement, we at Shell Lubricants envisage greater use of superior quality base oils and better rebalanced lubricant chemistry for better volatility and oxidation requirements in lubricants. We believe lubricants have an important role to play in some of our society's most critical issues, from economic growth and productivity, to the global energy challenge.
With respect to the technology, we are already equipped with product offerings to meet the 2020 emission norms in India. However, considering India is a very unique market, we will ensure to use our global expertise and local experience to offer appropriate products meeting the requirements of BS VI emission norms. Our unique Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) technology also allows us to have the flexibility to achieve fuel economy needs, all along meeting the emission norms. With our experience, our technical teams are engaging with OEMs in both heavy duty and passenger car segments to help them arrive at unique solutions and validate the same suiting typical Indian requirements.
We welcome the government's decision to leapfrog from BS IV emission norms to BS VI in order to drive a step change in reducing emissions. However, it will be difficult and will require large investments. This is yet another example of India's ability to leapfrog technologies.