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API certification: What it is, what it means and why you should look for it

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The mission of the American Petroleum Institute (API) is: “To promote safety across the industry globally and to influence public policy in support of a strong, viable U.S. oil and natural gas industry.”

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What does that mean to you? According to Jeff Harmening, API manager of the Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System (EOLCS), API exists to protect consumers with rigorous standards for market products. 

“When an oil marketer licenses a product, they have to disclose to API each and every formulation used to supply the product, provide specific proprietary information on how it is made and provide test results so API can verify that it meets the specifications claimed before a license to use the API Certification Marks can be awarded,” he said. “The licensing program is voluntary, but being part of that program requires that the marketer participate in our aftermarket audit program and adhere to the API standards.”

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API runs its aftermarket audit program by purchasing API-licensed engine oil samples and testing them against specifications or claims that they make on the models, based on the market they’re using and based on other claims on the labels.

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“We test samples and compare the test results from those audits to the formulations that are on file with API,” Harmening said. “In most cases, those results are passing. In the case where we find an issue, we will work with the marketers to resolve those issues through whatever corrective action they may take, whether it’s manufacturing changes, formulation changes, etc. So we do a rigorous amount of testing of products in the marketplace. It’s a nonstop process.”

Currently, API lists more than 680 licensed companies and more than 19,000 licensed products on the EOLCS Directory where it keeps all of its information up to date. API field testing also helps suss out counterfeit oils or products using the API mark without a license. They add unauthorized products they find to the API website so that consumers know which ones to avoid. 

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“We’re vigorously updating that to provide the most recent information for the gasoline engine categories,” Harmening said.

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