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New low energy road-building materials launched by Lafarge Tarmac and the Carbon Trust

Published by , Editor - Hydrocarbon Engineering
World Cement,

The Carbon Trust (within its Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator [IEEA] Programme) and Lafarge Tarmac have released the findings of a three-year study to improve the carbon efficiency of the manufacture of road materials, which has the potential to save the UK road industry £46.2 million in energy costs over the next ten years. The report follows a recent announcement by Transport Minister Robert Goodwill that £1.9 billion will be invested in British roads in 2014, providing an economic boost of more than £18.8 billion and creating around 10 000 jobs.

The study investigated the use of lower temperature asphalt in road construction, which reduces energy costs and cuts carbon emissions by up to 39%. The most commonly used road material is made by bonding aggregates and bitumen into asphalt by heating them to temperatures of 180 °C – 190 °C.  The project trialled the use of a low temperature asphalt (LTA) material, which allows mixing and working at lower temperatures. The LTA bonded road materials as effectively as the conventional method, but required much lower temperatures and less energy. Funding for the project came from Lafarge Tarmac and the Carbon Trust (via the Department of Energy & Climate Change) and support from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. Other project partners include Nynas UK, Atkins, MIRO and TRL.

“There is tremendous potential for this project, given the scheduled improvements to our major roads and motorways,” said Al-Karim Govindji, Technology Acceleration Manager at the Carbon Trust. “This programme is an example of how by establishing new models of working, we can unblock demand-supply stand-offs to help the UK to deliver the infrastructure of the future at a lower cost for taxpayers and the climate.”

Reducing emissions and increasing cost savings

“As a leader in sustainable construction solutions, we want to use our expertise to help bring these solutions to our clients and customers,” said Martin Riley, Managing Director at Lafarge Tarmac’s Asphalt and Aggregates business. “This project with the Carbon Trust will help unlock barriers to bring lower temperature asphalt into wider use, cutting energy use, reducing CO2 emissions and enabling us to deliver projects more quickly for clients. It will take time for these materials to become available, but as producers follow our lead and adopt this technology, there will be a growing movement to embrace LTAs as direct replacements for conventional hot asphalts.”

If the new specification is adopted and the low temperature asphalt market achieves approximately 21% of the total UK asphalt market over the next decade, it could save £46.2 million and around 260 000 t of CO2 during the manufacturing of these materials over the next 10 years.

The new specification is also of great importance to the Highway Authorities, especially those that have set targets for the reduction of carbon emissions. Keith Gordon, Assistant Director Efficiency & Delivery from the West Midlands Highway Alliance (WMHA), said, “On the 30 September, the WMHA committed to reduce carbon emissions from the production of road and footway materials by 20% by 2015. Preparations are well underway to deliver this programme following a number of practical workshops attended by clients, contractors and suppliers. It is anticipated that over 300 000 t of low temperature asphalt will be laid by 2015.”

Dr Nizar Ghazireh, the Project Director at Lafarge Tarmac, added, "This pioneering project and the development of the national specification for LTA will fundamentally change the asphalt industry in the UK, producing sustainable low carbon products. The developed specification will assist clients to procure these materials as standard products and that feedback from their use will inform the future development of the European Standards. There are considerable carbon savings to be gained from using lower temperature asphalt, reduced traffic management time and less disruption to the road users which can all be translated into cost savings.”

Installation of LTA technology

Whilst the lower temperature asphalt technology is currently available, the market shift to adopt it will be gradual as significant capital investment is required for companies to install the necessary equipment; thereby the energy savings from producing LTA will accumulate over time. 

Low temperature technology offers many benefits, both in terms of sustainability and improving efficiencies. They can help to reduce the duration of works on road schemes with associated potential safety benefits for the public and workforce. This may be particularly relevant on large-scale resurfacing of heavily congested schemes where there is a significant period of time involved waiting for materials to reach the appropriate trafficking temperature.

Edited from various sources by Rosalie Starling

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