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The Next 100 Years

by Michael A. Collier
with contributions from Steven R. Westbrook, Ben R. Bonazza and Cyrus P. Henry

Committee D02 on Petroleum Products and Lubricants is faced with the challenge of predicting what the future expectations and look of its committee will be.

Since its original inception as Committee N on Standard Tests for Lubricants in October 1904 in Philadelphia, Pa., Committee D02 has grown from 10 members to over 1500. The committee has over 800-full consensus standards under its jurisdiction. Committee D02 expects to face many challenges in the decades to come as the applications and composition of petroleum products continue to evolve. The industry is evolving too, in terms of its structure, needs, and use of technology.

Continuous research and development examines the possibilities of improving fuels and lubricants performance, how these products are utilized or consumed in engines and lubrication systems, and how to minimize and deal with the byproducts that are produced. These improvements and changing utilization of petroleum products will continue to bring about the need for revised specifications and test methods, and even new standards as the existing ones become obsolete. It is difficult to predict exactly what developments will occur in the next 25 to 50 years, but most assuredly things will be quite different than today.

World energy needs are growing. It is expected that by 2020, the world will require 40 percent more energy than in 2000. This is close to 290 million barrels of oil-equivalent energy per day, despite continuing conservation efforts and efficiency gains.

It is also expected that hydrocarbon fuels will remain a dominant energy source for the next 50 years. New technologies will continue to extend recoverable oil resources. Sources of petroleum such as shale, deep well, and heavy oil reservoirs, which have thus far been too difficult and/or expensive to exploit, will eventually be brought on-stream. (1) These additional sources of oil will affect the composition of petroleum products and most likely cause the need to modify test methods and specifications in the future as they begin to mix with the conventional sources of petroleum.

We must consider the challenges to the existing sources of traditional petroleum as they dwindle in reserves and as the need for further reduction of unwanted emissions intensifies over the next few decades. Certainly developments will occur in the not-too-distant future to enable the increased efficiency of these resources. It is anticipated that as the need for new, synthetic, and alternative fuels and lubricants arise, new test methods, practices and specifications will also be developed to assure the quality and safety of these products.

There will be increased pressure to reduce the level of environmental impact attributed to fuels and lubricants, such as emissions and biodegradability. Undesirable components in fuels and lubricants will be reduced or eliminated. This will require new testing technology and specifications to ensure that petroleum products can meet the requirements of their intended use. The recycling of used petroleum products will become even more common than today, requiring a higher concentration of testing and specifications to ensure that this material will meet the needs of users. Alternate fuels and lubricants will be produced from sources other than petroleum; some renewable, such as plant oils used in the production of biodiesel and biolubricants, and alcohol fuels derived from corn and wood. Synthetic esters derived from animal products will play an increasing role in the lubricants area.

The transportation segment of the fuels and lubricants industry is ever growing, creating even more demand for energy and economies. About 60 percent of the expected increase in oil demand stems from growing transportation needs. (1) Engine performance and efficiency will continue to increase, requiring changes in formulations for fuels and lubricants to meet the harsher conditions under which these engines operate. Engines will be made even smaller, reducing overall vehicle weight and increasing fuel economies and reducing emissions. Lubricant specifications will need to be developed to assure that the operational limits of these engines are met.

What Is Ahead for Diesel Fuel

Automotive diesel fuel (compression ignition engine fuel) is no longer the leftovers from the modern day barrel of oil. Modern diesel fuel is in high demand and growing in popularity. The demand for distillate fuel (primarily automotive diesel fuel) is forecast to increase at an annual rate of about 1.5 to 2 percent for the next eight to 10 years. Diesel fuel is now a highly refined product with ever-increasing control on its quality, both during and after production. Fuel additives are often used to meet specification requirements or additional needs imposed by the buyer. New diesel engine designs and new environmental regulations will necessitate further changes in diesel fuel specification. Subcommittee D02.E on Burner, Diesel, Non-Aviation Gas Turbine, and Marine Fuels is ready to address these future changes, as it always has, in the spirit of cooperation that is the strength of the consensus standards process.

Subcommittee D02.E is constantly working on refinements to D 975, Specification for Diesel Fuel Oils, and other matters pertaining to diesel engine fuels in general. Over the next several years the subcommittee and its sections will address many issues, including:

• Fuels from non-traditional sources such as bio-derived fuels and fuels from natural gas and coal;
• Continued reductions in total sulfur limits down to 15 parts per million, maximum;
• An expected demand for increased cetane number (diesel fuel ignition quality) brought about by a growing number of light-duty diesel vehicles in the United States; and
• The possibility that D 975 should include specifications regarding the types and amounts of certain additives in diesel fuel.

Many countries around the world, especially those in Europe, already place ever-increasing demands on the quality of the fuels burned in diesel-powered vehicles. While the quality of American diesel fuel remains high, there are some significant differences compared to European fuels. Ignition quality, or cetane number, is a good example. The members of Subcommittee D02.E expect continuous pressure to adjust D 975 to meet the demands of both regulators and users, while being mindful of the needs of fuel producers, and we are ready.

Fuels for off-road applications such as home heating, farming, and construction are also changing. These fuels, as with automotive diesel fuel, will have to conform to demands for reduced sulfur and sulfur emissions. Dyes and markers are used in these fuels to denote both sulfur level and non-taxable status. ASTM specifications must keep up with these demands. Subcommittee D02.E works with producers, users, and government regulators to address the needed changes and keep its specifications up to date.

The Future of Gasoline

The quality of the world’s gasoline is improving more rapidly today than at any other time in history. Many factors are responsible for these changes, such as new vehicle designs, new refining technologies, politics, and most important, the need for clean air and accompanying governmental regulations. Governments throughout the world are regulating gasoline quality, and these regulations have a marked effect on the work of Subcommittee D02.A on Gasoline and Oxygenated Fuels. Where once the ASTM gasoline standard, D 4814, Specification for Automotive Spark-Ignition Engine Fuel, set all specifications for gasoline in the United States, today many gasoline specifications are regulated by the government. These include lead and sulfur content, vapor pressure, and other components. In areas of high pollution requiring the use of reformulated gasoline, additional volatility parameters and composition of the fuel are controlled through the use of complex computer models.

On a worldwide basis, Europe, the United States and Japan remain most advanced in conventional fuel quality developments, with eastern and central Europe and Russia behind, but attempting to catch up, patterning their regulations on those of the European Union. Fuel quality in Asia is improving rapidly out of necessity due to poor air quality and the very rapid growth in the transportation sector. Latin America is working on improving fuel quality, but progress is slow. The Middle East and Africa generally have the world’s poorest gasoline quality, where the major emphasis is still the removal of lead.

Future global gasoline trends include:

• The phase-out of lead;
• The reduction of sulfur;
• The reduction of air toxics (benzene, aldehydes and polycyclic organic matter);
• The reduction of aromatics;
• The increased drive toward energy security, with increased emphasis on alternative fuels;
• The assurance of driveability and durability (octane, volatility and additive treatments); and
• Increased attention to CO2 and global warming.

The Future of Aviation Fuel

Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, the worldwide consumption of jet fuel was increasing faster than the other transportation fuels; that trend will likely be re-established in the future. Jet fuel has thus far not been subject to significant environmental regulations because aircraft spend little time in the lower atmosphere and because the industry resists rapid change that could affect flight safety. We expect sulfur content will eventually be regulated as it is for motor gasoline and diesel fuel, but, provided the industry is made aware of the trends, the technology exists to handle lubricity and other concerns.

Aviation fuel quality will continue to be carefully guarded in the future. Fuel cleanliness continues to be a major concern and we expect new technologies will be developed to monitor water and dirt content of jet fuels. Changes in the fuel distribution system to accommodate ultra-low sulfur gasoline and diesel fuels will have significant impact on jet fuel distribution, and that must be addressed. Other online fuel quality measurement techniques are being developed by the military for a variety of fuel properties; these techniques will likely be introduced into civil fuels. ASTM standard D 1655, Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuels, will continue to accommodate new methods for measurement of aromatics content, distillation, and other properties.

The emergence of gas-to-liquids technologies will require the industry to consider the suitability of these as turbine fuels or blend components. These are made from a variety of processes that complicate evaluations. Turbine fuels other than those made from traditional petroleum sources (including oil sands and shale oil) require evaluation before use.

Aviation gasoline specifications and technology will change far more than turbine fuels in the future. A strong effort continues to transition spark ignition engines from leaded to unleaded Grade 100 aviation gasoline; this is complicated because the entire fleet must be evaluated and modified as needed for a complete transition. Subcommittee D02.J on Aviation Fuel is working with ethanol producers and others to define specifications for ethanol-based aviation gasoline, perhaps only for low-performance aircraft, and is taking the worldwide lead in these efforts.

Thermal stability of jet fuel is a very important property to assure satisfactory performance and engine durability. New methodology is likely to improve the ability to measure this property accurately and precisely.

Overarching all of these will be strong continuing international cooperation on measurement of fuel properties and harmonization of aviation turbine fuel specifications. Our meetings are heavily attended by an international audience with 20 or more countries represented. Subcommittee D02.J will continue to be an international forum for aviation fuel specifications, and the leading forum on measurement of these properties.


All of these anticipated trends will require attention to maintain the integrity and quality of the standards that are needed during the evolution of these fuels so that they will meet the needs of the industry.

Advanced types of engine and propulsion technology will require the development of future fuels and lubricants, products that will need to meet the conditions of the environments where this technology will be utilized in 25 to 50 years. These future fuels and lubricants will require a quality level of standardization that allows the future technology to perform reliably.

Emerging technologies are expected to provide significant gains for fuel efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions. Hybrids of petroleum-based fuels and engines will be developed. Future vehicles may rely on fuel-cell technology based on hydrogen, that in turn could be derived mainly from petroleum. Of course, these developments will all need to become economical, efficient, and standardized for them to succeed in the marketplace.

Petroleum will find more new applications in plastics and polymers to replace materials such as steel, wood, cement, and aluminum. New uses for petroleum beyond the current slate will be developed.

Testing technology will advance to a point where test results are obtainable within seconds, be miniaturized in size, and even performed onboard the vehicles and engines of the future. Those tests, many of which are still manually performed today, will likely be automated sometime during the next 50 years as cost and economies allow the development of such apparatus. Just recall that by 1970 only a few physical property tests of petroleum, such as flash point and distillation, had been automated and placed into acceptable service and look at where this technology is today. Advanced testing technology may even allow for a single test system that examines the critical composition of fuels and lubricants, replacing the multiple tests used today. This technology may even evaluate the fuels and lubricants during use and determine if they remain viable. This testing technology will need to be standardized to ensure precise and accurate results.

Today, standards developing organizations throughout the global community work together to ensure that quality standards are produced and accepted worldwide. These SDOs will cooperatively develop standards for future needs. Committee D02 is presently working to harmonize standards development with the United Kingdom’s Energy Institute, and the coordination of standards development with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) through memorandums of understanding. Meetings will be conducted on a global scale using technology well advanced from today’s limitations. Committee D02 may hold some of their meetings on other continents, as international participation and reach in the committee increases. The pace of standards development will increase to where standards are produced as quickly as the needs are identified; this could mean that a standard could be published in well under a year, maybe in less than six months. Committee D02 has already created an efficient process for standards development, and is expected to remain in the forefront in improving the timely development of the highest quality full consensus standards that are acknowledged, accepted and used throughout the world.

The membership of Committee D02 itself is faced with the pressures of economies. Companies will continue to restructure; cost reductions and downsizing are always an issue. The use of available resources will need to be maximized to their most efficient extent. It is expected that technology will continue to advance at a rapid pace, allowing members to communicate and participate in committee activities and standards development through an increasing number of avenues and tools. Even now virtual meetings are taking place on a small scale through the use of net meetings. The ability to conduct even larger multi-media meetings seems certainly possible with the advancement of the technology. The increasing transparency of the committee’s standards development process will invite additional participation worldwide as the activities of the committee become more readily accessible.

All in all, the future appears to hold enough challenges for Committee D02 to consider. As the committee has shown the ability and resourcefulness to surmount the challenges of the past century, we can expect no less for the next 100 years. //


1 “A Report on Energy Trends, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Alternative Energy,” February 2004, ExxonMobil.

Copyright 2004, ASTM International

This article was written and compiled by Michael A. Collier (see his biography here) with contributions from Steven R. Westbrook (What Is Ahead for Diesel Fuel), Southwest Research Institute, chairman Subcommittee D02.E on Burner, Diesel, Non-Aviation Gas Turbine and Marine Fuels; Ben R. Bonazza (The Future of Gasoline), TI Group Automotive Systems, chairman Subcommittee D02.A on Gasoline and Oxygenated Fuel; and Cyrus P. Henry (The Future of Aviation Fuel), Octel America Inc., vice-chairman Subcommittee D02.J on Aviation Fuels.