October 8, 2020

Dutch Road Innovation~Bye Bye Bitumen, Hello Lignin!


Do you know what the biggest use of bitumen is? Bitumen is “low-grade crude oil which is composed of complex, heavy hydrocarbons.” It is composed of sand,water and viscous oil, and needs a lot of energy to make it into any kind of useable product. It is what the oil sands  around Fort McMurray are full of.

Once refined, 85 percent of all bitumen product is used as a “binder” in asphalt applied on roadways, airports, and parking lots. Add in gravel and crushed rock to bitumen, heat it up, and you are good for road building.

The City of Vancouver has experimented with “eco” asphalt in the past, being one of the first in Canada to use a plastic based wax to create a “lower-heat” asphalt mix in 2012.

But as Maurits Kuypers in Innovations Origins.com describes the Dutch  have gone one step further in their adaptation of “bio” asphalt~asphalt that uses plant-based lignin to replace bitumen. This of course also fits in with using less oil based products.

A Dutch company in Zeeland is making bio-asphalt, using lignin from a pulp mill. With funding from the Dutch Enterprise Agency, the project known as CHAPLIN-XL will prepare a test lane in Vlissengen and then evaluate its effectiveness.

If the experiences with this road surface are positive, then the large-scale roll-out of it will follow throughout the rest of the country”.

There are several positive factors if this trial is successful. Not only is it a sustainable substitute, bitumen quality has been hard to maintain. The bio-asphalt is quieter than asphalt roads, and requires less heat in manufacture and in road application. Requiring temperatures that are 30 degrees celsius less than traditional asphalt, there will be “huge reductions”  in C02 emissions.

Partnering with two universities, the company states “The Netherlands is leading the way in making road construction more sustainable. Plus it has a unique position when it comes to expertise in the field of bio-asphalt.”

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