Shell’s Innovations in Bitumen Research and Development
Photo Credit To Shell Bitumen

Shell’s Innovations in Bitumen Research and Development

Projects and Technologies Division

Over 10,000 of Shell’s 90,000 plus employees work in their “Projects and Technologies” division, which has research locations spread out all over the world.

Shell’s Hamburg Laboratory is their centre of expertise in worldwide fuel and lubricant research where their scientists are working on how to make conventional fuels such as petrol and diesel more efficient, with a focus on developing alternative fuels for road, maritime and aircraft.


India is one of the largest consumers of Bitumen with demand predicted to reach 122 million tonnes by 2018. So, it is easy to understand why Shell chose to locate its Bitumen Research and Development Centre in Bangalore, India, which is connected via networks closely to their other technology centres including Houston, Bangkok, Shanghai, Beijing and the European Solution Centre in Strasbourg.

Wolverhampton, UK SEAM Trial 2008

Bitumen World Trade

The Bangalore Research and Development Centre is the main driver in the Shell Bitumen trade worldwide. Selling around 12,000 tonnes of bitumen daily to 1,600 clients in 28 countries. That is enough bitumen to surface 450 kilometres of roads every day or 1 kilometre every four minutes.

96 years of research

Shell currently has 49 active patents, which reflect their focus on research and Development over the last 96 years.

Shell’s leading-edge bitumen research looks into developing solutions to improve the quality of road infrastructure, such as addressing deformation, resistance, noise protection, safety and economic efficiency.

Professor John Read, General Manager for Bitumen Technology at Shell, said: “We are continually pushing the boundaries of bitumen. Today, from our global R&D centre in Bangalore, we have scientists working at a molecular level to make bitumen have the properties necessary to make more durable, sustainable and energy-efficient roads.”

Among the high-performance products Shell has developed include Shell Cariphalte, a polymer-modified binder with a very high resistance to deformation and excellent low-temperature flexibility which is ideal for extreme conditions such as the busiest roads in Europe.

Airport Runway


Shell Cariphalte is also used to pave the taxi areas and runways of some of the biggest international airports, including Heathrow and Gatwick airports in the UK, Frankfurt Airport in Germany as well as the airports in Hong Kong and Dubai.

Race Tracks

Shell Cariphalte has also proven useful in many Formula 1 racetracks, including Singapore, Malaysia, Hockenheim in Germany, and Ferrari’s own test track in Italy. More recently, Shell Cariphalte was used to repave the Bugatti Circuit in LeMans, France.


Shell have also been heavily focused on asphalt recycling for many years. Shell Cariphalte RC was launched over 16 years ago and is a cost-effective polymer modified bitumen. Designed for high performance road applications in combination with reclaimed asphalt from base, upper and high-quality road layers.

Asphalt Paving

Health & Safety

Shell Bitufresh is an additive that reduces bitumen’s odour, and significantly improves the work environment during paving works. Shell Bitufresh received the International Road Federation’s Global Road Achievement Award for Research for its innovative approach.

“Our investments in R&D are set to transform the humble highway into smart surfaces of the future. Some of these innovations will take a decade or more to come to the market, but others are already on-stream. Take Shell Bitufresh, which removes smell from bitumen, rather than simply masking it. This is done by chemically converting the mercaptans, the smell generating compounds within the bitumen, by attaching really heavy molecules from the Shell Bitufresh to the mercaptans, making them incredibly heavy and dense, so that they sink to the bottom of the bitumen, preventing their release,” said Read.

The future

Shell Bitumen’s research is very much focused on the future and is looking forward thirty years to 2050 to envision the future of our world’s highways with Shell smart surfaces of the future.

As well as Shell Cariphalte and Shell Bitufresh, Shell Bitumen continues to innovate and contribute to the sustainable development of the highways market.

Shell has developed synthetic bitumen emulsions designed to reduce the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide in the air by converting the gas into harmless nitrates that wash away from the road surface.

To light up the highways Shell Bitumen has started to explore the technical feasibility of using a phosphorescent binder in the road pavement surface that absorbs light during the day and then emits the light at night, helping to reduce ambient street lighting, alert traffic to changes of road driving conditions or even danger. It has partnered with suppliers of phosphorescent products and several universities to investigate the feasibility of scaling up phosphorescent asphalt mixtures.

Shell is working with Pavegen, a technology company that has developed paving slabs to convert energy from people. It is also possible that this technology could be integrated into roads to generate electricity to feed the grid.

Shell is also conceptualizing how this technology could act as a means to inform local authorities and their contractors that a road is failing: as the road deforms, the pressure exerted by the vehicle would give out a higher electrical current which could then be converted into an indication of damage.

With cleaner emission vehicles becoming more commonplace it is likely that new and stricter emissions regulations will be implemented. Shell is working on improving air quality with a road surface that can take harmful substances like nitrogen dioxide or particulate matter out of the air. It is working on bitumen technology that can absorb the PM10 particulates like smoke, soot, dust, other materials generated by gases emitted from motor vehicles. These particles are small enough to be inhaled into the deepest parts of the lung and are of the greatest health and safety concerns.

A Global Business

Apart from their Projects and Technologies division, Shell has divisions for oil and gas exploration and extraction; processing and marketing of oil products; and their integrated gas trade.

The continuing price volatility of the oil market has created a big challenge, making it difficult for Governments, Contractors, and asphalt manufacturers to reliably calculate the cost of road construction projects. To help stabilize this Shell has introduced innovative risk management concepts that offer customers price certainty, price flexibility as well as volume and purchase flexibility.

Shell Bitumen operates a robust network of bitumen production and storage facilities around the world, to ensure security of supply for its customers as well as ensure consistent quality.

Post source : Shell Bitumen

About The Author

Anthony has worked in the construction industry for many years and looks forward to bringing you news and stories on the highways industry from all over the world.

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