Bitumen plays a vital sustainability role in road construction
Bitumen, the binder used during road has changed the face of transportation since its application. It shaped mobility as we know it and would hold the future of transportation with its flexibility and durability benefits.
Bitumen is sticky, black material that contains high molecular weight hydrocarbons. It is a result of crude oil distillation during the refining process and gained importance due to its variety of properties such as water resistance, adhesion, high softening point, durability, and hardness.
India: Largest consumer of bitumen
Second to only the U.S., India has the largest road network, making the country the largest consumer of bitumen. What’s more, India fulfills around 90% of its bitumen demand and imports the remaining 10% from Iran and UAE.
According to Allied Market Research, the India bitumen market is expected to reach $3.6 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 2.8% from 2019 to 2026. The rapidly growing market is due to surge in building and road construction activities, development of smart cities, construction of airport runways, highways, and expressways.
In addition, the Government of India has invested heavily in the market to complete several projects such as six-laning of highways and improving road connectivity in the Naxal-affected areas. However, the country still uses traditional methods to use bitumen, which negatively impacts the environment significantly. Thus, the Government has issued instructions on the application of bitumen and ways to eliminate environmental issues that comes from the use of bitumen.
The focus on sustainability is bound to increase in India bitumen market. Shell had already launched cost-effective polymer-modified bitumen that offers high-performance road applications that utilized reclaimed asphalt from road layers. Furthermore, Shell has introduced a bitumen product that helped reduce the impact of road paving on the local environment and air quality. As the bitumen industry is responsible for compromising local air quality, the demand for more eco-friendly bitumen and sustainable ways to construct roads gained importance.
Thus, more and more companies are investing in developing more sustainable bitumen solutions that offer asphalts with improved skid resistance properties and textured asphalts to delineate bus lanes. Such modified bitumen would hold a lot of opportunities in the mobility industry.
Bitumen and future of transportation
As bitumen is an integral part of road construction, it holds a lot of importance in today’s world when modern technologies are being introduced to develop roads of the future. The future of mobility lies with autonomous vehicles where the versatility and flexibility of binding materials such as bitumen will make a huge difference.
Since the introduction of bitumen in road construction, it has found application as adhesive in waterproofing materials, developing roofing membranes, and road maintenance. Even though technology has advanced so profoundly over the last few years, the world still relies on modern asphalt roads and hence bitumen. What’s more, the bitumen–which is used in modern applications such as airfield runways and Formula One racetracks–has state-of-the-art engineering properties. Bitumen of today’s world offers the utmost efficiency, long-lasting materials, and sustainability that certain applications demand.
The world of tomorrow demands sustainability and zero effect on climate change. Thus, more and more companies are investing in electric vehicles and other sustainable modes of transportation. Canada has already declared its intentions about carbon net-zero targets and bitumen plays a vital role in achieving those targets. The developments in traditional bitumen would be a significant moment for the future of roads and their role in tomorrow’s society.
Bitumen used in road surfaces is also 100% reusable. If collected properly, it can be used multiple times, which helps in taking one step toward carbon neutrality aims. Moreover, the reusability of bitumen helps in reducing carbon emissions coupled with asphalt production.
The Covid-19 pandemic has offered an opportunity to think and implement innovative solutions to minimize the long-term implication of human actions on the environment. That’s why bitumen has become the center of Industry 4.0 as developments in the bitumen industry would lead to new applications of bitumen such as dual-purpose pavements and intelligent roads.
The integration of novel technologies coupled with rise in investment in R&D to improve bitumen and traditional ways of road construction would shape the future of transportation.