Southwest Research Institute

Picture 2,700 employees from nine different “companies” working together in a multidisciplinary approach to problem solving. Imagine these companies, or divisions, arranged in a campus-like setting on the edge of the beautiful, rolling Texas hill country of San Antonio. Begin to envision the magic and excitement of Southwest Research Institute™ (SwRI™), one of the world’s largest independent, nonprofit applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organizations.

Philanthropist and oilman Tom Slick founded SwRI in 1947 with the belief that science and technology were the keys to a better world. From a humble beginning more than 50 years ago, and a few tin buildings with cacti, rattlesnakes and roadrunners for neighbors, SwRI has grown into a state-of-the-art facility that is one of the most well-known and respected independent R&D organizations in the world, occupying nearly two million square feet of laboratories, test facilities, workshops and offices.

Automotive Products and Emissions Research is the largest of SwRI’s nine technical divisions. Its mission is to help clients take automotive products to market and keep them there in response to competition and regulation. Internationally known for its fuels, lubricants and emissions research, the Division has a staff of almost 600 and laboratories and facilities located in more than 20 buildings. The Division is organized into three departments: Fuels and Lubricants Research, Emissions Research and Petroleum Products Research.

Since 1949, SwRI has offered extensive petroleum products research services, providing chemical and physical analyses, as well as most of the standard ASTM, UTOP, SAE, federal and industrial testing. The Petroleum Products Research Department measures quality and determines regulatory compliance of fuels, automatic transmission fluids, brake fluids, gear lubricants, hydraulic oils, gasoline and diesel crankcase oils. In addition to standard ASTM tests, a number of independent programs support clients’ efforts to characterize and evaluate a broad range of petroleum and automotive products. For the past 20 years, SwRI’s Petroleum Products Research Department has conducted physical and chemical analyses of fuel samples. As many as 7,500 samples are procured monthly from large cities and small communities throughout North America. Analysis of these samples provides fuel manufacturers with valuable fuel quality information.

Fuel and Lubricant Testing
The Institute’s fuel and lubricant test program is known all over the world. It has the capability to perform more than 500 ASTM/Industrial methods. The laboratories are staffed by engineers, scientists and technicians who are recognized by both industry and government for innovations in petroleum technology. To meet increasing client testing requirements, SwRI recently constructed a new facility that houses more than 45,500 square feet of laboratory and office space. The climate-controlled storage facilities have the capacity to store as many as 500,000 samples at a time.

When standard or conventional tests are inadequate or not applicable, SwRI employs a variety of special chemical and physical techniques to meet the needs of industrial and governmental clients. SwRI personnel work closely with customers to design need-specific investigations, often resulting in the development of specialized tests and equipment. Laboratory-scale screening tests are frequently employed to simulate more extensive and costly full-scale equipment tests to aid in the development of fuels and lubricants.

Lubricant Performance Trend Analysis at SwRI
Longevity, dependability and smooth operation are important to all modes of transportation. For vehicles to last a long time, start on command and run efficiently, a quality lubricant must be used. The Petroleum Products Research Department has developed a system of used oil trend analysis for a variety of lubricants extracted from different types of fleets and industrial applications. A database tracks the lubricant history for each vehicle or unit. Variables typically monitored include viscosity, elemental analysis, oxidation, nitration, additive depletion, base number, fuel dilution, water dilution, antifreeze dilution and soot. New laboratory equipment includes a Global Technovations On-Site Analyzer for used oil analysis and a Fluitec International RULER, which is used to predict a lubricant’s remaining useful life.

Information about lubricant performance in a variety of operation conditions can help fleet owners predict maintenance intervals, spot trouble areas, prevent unneeded maintenance, improve equipment life and track operation and performance. Through this program, industrial equipment, locomotives, vans, taxis, tugboats, passenger cars, natural gas engines and multi-axle vehicles can be monitored for lubricant quality. Each program can be customized to meet individual client needs. When required, in-line sampling, on-site assistance/monitoring is available. Additionally, quick turnaround is offered for test results in a variety of platforms.

Quality Assurance
All departments within the Automotive Products and Emissions Research Department are certified to ISO 9002, the “Model for Quality Assurance in Production, Installation and Servicing,” and accredited to ISO/IEC Guide 25, “General Requirements for the Competence of Calibration and Testing Laboratories.” They have also achieved Ford Tier 1 status and received the Q1 Quality Award.

For additional information about Southwest Research Institute, the Automotive Products and Emissions Research Division, and the Petroleum Products Research Department, visit, or contact Walter P. Groff, Vice President, Automotive Products and Emissions Research Division, at; or Harry Dietzmann, Director, Petroleum Products Research Department, at

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