Friday, November 25, 2016


Most things in our world have an industrial history.  Behind the computer, the T-shirt, the vacuum cleaner is an industrial infrastructure fired by energy (fossil fuels mainly).  Each component of our car or refrigerator has an industrial history. 

Mainly unseen and out of mind, this global industrial infrastructure touches every aspect of our lives.   It pervades our daily living from the articles it produces, to its effect on the economy and employment, as well as its effects on the environment. 

Most of us don’t thnk about the road we are on.  It is just there unless it has huge potholes or other problems.  It allows our mobility from home to work to shopping to play or even to the hospital.  It allows us to visit friends and relatives near and across the country.  Huge trucks criss cross this country on this dark ribbon bringing goods and food. It allows us to drive to the airport.   It allows the planes to take off and land. 



In the USA alone, the asphalt roads could
circle the globe at the equator 100 times.

Asphalt pavement is one of America’s building blocks. The United States has more than 2.7 million miles of paved roads and highways, and 94 percent of those are surfaced with asphalt. Many of those are full-depth asphalt pavements; others are asphalt overlays used to restore the performance of deteriorating concrete pavements.

The nation has around 3,500 asphalt plants, at least one in every congressional district. Each year, these plants produce a total of about 400 million tons of asphalt pavement material worth in excess of $30 billion. The industry supports employment for more than 400,000 Americans in the asphalt production, aggregate production, and road construction sectors. Asphalt pavement material is a precisely engineered product composed of about 95 percent stone, sand, and gravel by weight, and about 5 percent asphalt cement, a petroleum product. Asphalt cement acts as the glue to hold the pavement together.

20.46 million miles of asphalt road globally

What percentage of land area in
the world is covered with pavement?
There are 33 billion meters of road on Earth, so guessing 6 meters for the average road width gives 33*6 = ~200 billion square meters. There are 130,000 billion square meters of land, so 200/130,000 = 0.15%. Roads will be the bulk of it, so also counting airports, parking lots, etc, maybe 0.2%.

Some History

Sheet Asphalt
Sheet asphalt placed on a concrete base (foundation) became popular during the mid-1800s with the first such pavement of this type being built in Paris in 1858. The first such pavement placed in the U.S. was in Newark, New Jersey, in 1870. Baker [1903] describes this pavement system as (1) a wearing course 40 to 50 mm thick composed of asphalt cement and sand, (2) a binder course (about 40 mm thick) composed of broken stone and asphalt cement, and finally, (3) a base layer of hydraulic cement concrete or pavement rubble (old granite blocks, bricks, etc.). Generally, the concrete layer was 100 mm thick for “light” traffic and 150 mm thick for “heavy” traffic [Baker, 1903]. The final thickness was based on the weight of the traffic, the strength of the concrete and the soil support.

Bitulithic Pavements
In 1901 and 1903, Frederick J. Warren was issued patents for the early “hot mix” paving materials. A typical mix contained about 6 percent “bituminous cement” and graded aggregate proportioned for low air voids. Essentially, the maximum aggregate size was 75 mm ranging down to dust. The concept was to produce a mix which could use a more “fluid” binder than used for sheet asphalt. This material became known as “Bitulithic.”
More history at:
The story of the road, from the beginning down to A. D. 1931.  Gregory, J. W


"Oilfield Dodge" Promotional Film 1920s Dodge Brothers Wild Ride
2.46 minutes


Asphalt concrete (commonly called asphalt, blacktop, or pavement in North America, and tarmac or bitumen macadam in Great Britain and Ireland) is a composite material commonly used to surface roads, parking lots, and airports. It consists of mineral aggregate bound together with asphalt, laid in layers, and compacted.

How to make asphalt ?

How to make asphalt ?
5.01 minutes

Almost all of the asphalt used today for paving comes from petroleum crude oil. Liquid asphalt is the heaviest part of the crude—what's left after all the volatile, light fractions are distilled off for products such as gasoline. In Europe and Canada it is commonly called bitumen.

Naturally occurring asphalt/bitumen is sometimes specified by the term "crude bitumen". Its viscosity is similar to that of cold molasses while the material obtained from the fractional distillation of crude oil boiling at 525 °C (977 °F) is sometimes referred to as "refined bitumen".  

A dark-brown-to-black cement-like material containing bitumens as the predominant constituent obtained by petroleum processing used primarily for road construction. It includes crude asphalt as well as the following finished products: cements, fluxes, the asphalt content of emulsions (exclusive of water), and petroleum distillates blended with asphalt to make cutback asphalts. Note: The conversion factor for asphalt is 5.5 barrels per short ton.

The Canadian province of Alberta has most of the world's reserves of natural bitumen, covering 142,000 square kilometres (55,000 sq mi), an area larger than England.


Energy Consumption
The petroleum refining industry is one of the largest energy consuming industries in the United States. Energy use in refineries varies over time due to changes in the type of crude processed, the product mix and complexity of refineries, as well as the sulfur content of the final products. Furthermore, operational factors such as capacity utilization, maintenance practices, and equipment age affect energy use from year to year.

Energy consumption in refineries peaked in 1998 and has slightly declined since then. Based on data published by the Energy Information Administration, energy consumption trends are estimated by purchased fuel since 1995.  In 2011, the latest year for which data is currently available, total final energy consumption is estimated at 3,138 TBtu. Primary energy consumption is estimated at 3,512 TBtu. The difference between primary and final energy consumption is relatively small due to the limited proportion of electricity consumption within the refinery, and the relatively large amount of self-produced electricity.

In a typical refinery, key energy consuming processes include crude distillation, hydrotreating, reforming, vacuum distillation, and catalytic cracking. Hydrocracking and hydrogen production comprise a rising proportion of total energy consumption in the refining industry.

Asphalt and Road Oil Energy Use
125,326   Thousand Barrels in 2015

This is 1.76% of the Total Crude
and Petroleum Products in 2015

This is 5,263,602 gallons of oil.

Figure 1: Subentry energy consumption statistics of the asphalt pavement


Distillation Columns

The range of temperatures at which the crude oil boils denotes each fraction. This fraction is also called a cut. The key temperatures at which each product is separated is called a cut point. The lower temperature indicating a cut is the initial boiling point, or IBP. This is where the cut or fraction just begins to boil. The end point, or EP, is where that particular fraction has become completely vaporized.

Hot Mix Asphalt  (HMA)  Trivia
• How many tons of HMA are placed/yr?  • 675-750 MillionTons
• How many miles of roads in USA? • 4 Million Miles of Roads
• How many miles are paved? • 2.4 Million Miles

Hot Mix Asphalt Trivia
• How many of those are paved w/Asphalt?
• 2.3 of the 2.4 Million Miles are paved w/HMA
• How many tons HMA removed annually? • 120 Millions tons
• How many tons HMA on roads today? • About 18 Billion tons

Asphalt Plant Trivia
• How many Asphalt Plants are in the United States?
• About 3900
• How many tons of HMA do states, cities and   counties have in inventory?
• About 18 Billion Tons on the road alone
Reducing Energy Costs at HMA Facilities               

 Road Paving & Asphalt


B-roll: Road Paving & Asphalt
2.50 minutes


According to the Kyoto Protocol, there are six main greenhouse gases, namely carbon dioxide (CO2 ), methane (CH4 ), nitrous oxide (N2 O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PHCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6 ) [23 ]. Since HFCs, PFCs and SF6 are not commonly present in the asphalt pavement construction process, this study only focuses on three types of GHG: CO2 , CH4  and N2 O.

The total GHG emissions of asphalt construction are shown in Figure 6 . It can be seen that 97.19% of the total GHG emissions are due to the mixture mixing phase and raw materials production phase, wherein 54.01% are from the mixture mixing phase, and 43.18% are from the raw materials production phase. About 1.35% of the total GHG emissions are due to the raw material and mixture transportation phase. Only 0.86% and 0.61% of the total GHG emissions are due to laying phase and compacting phase.

6. Conclusions
Asphalt pavement construction has significant environmental impacts. Its GHG emissions are evaluated and calculated for a case study in China, including raw materials production, mixing, transportation, laying, compacting and curing phase. The total CO2 emission of the 20 km long asphalt pavement construction project is 52,264,916.06 kg.
For the asphalt pavement construction, the mixture mixing phase generates the largest amount of GHG emissions, accounting for 54% of the total. The raw material production accounts for 43% of total.

GHG emissions. For cement-stabilized aggregate base/subbase, the largest portion of GHG is emitted in the raw materials (cement and aggregates) production phase, accounting for about 98% of total emissions, wherein the cement production emissions alone accounted for 92% of the total emissions of raw materials production phase.
For the asphalt mixture course construction, the use of energy-saving and efficient equipment is recommended to decrease the GHG emissions. For cement stabilized aggregate course, the improvement of cement and aggregate production will help decrease the GHG emissions. If the raw material production is excluded, the use of energy-saving and efficient equipment for laying, mixing and transportation is recommended to decrease the GHG emissions.


Recycling importantly saves energy and materials.  It is also important to keep in mind that energy and special machines are required for this savings.   The whole system must be considered.

New FHWA Survey Finds Asphalt Recycling Reaches 99 Percent;
Warm Mix Usage Skyrockets
Asphalt pavement is not only America’s most recycled and reused material, it now is being recycled and reused at a rate over 99 percent. Use of environmentally friendly warm-mix asphalt grew by more than 148 percent from 2009 to 2010, a trend that is expected to continue. Recycling of asphalt pavements and asphalt shingles in 2010 alone conserved 20.5 million barrels of asphalt binder.

Some highlights from the data:

• RAP: The asphalt industry remains the country’s number one recycler. The amount of RAP used in asphalt pavements was 56.0 million tons in 2009 and 62.1 million tons in 2010.
Assuming 5 percent liquid asphalt in RAP, this represents over 3 million tons (19 million barrels) of asphalt binder conserved. About 96 percent of the contractors/ branches reported using RAP. Less than 1 percent of RAP was sent to landfills.

• RAS: Use of recycled asphalt shingles (both manufacturer’s waste and tear-offs) increased from 702,000 tons to 1.10 million tons from 2009 to 2010, a 57 percent increase.
Assuming conservative asphalt content of 20 percent for shingles, this represents 234,000 tons (1.5 million barrels) of asphalt binder conserved.

• WMA (warm-mix asphalt) : Total tonnage of WMA is estimated at 19.2 million tons in 2009 and 47.6 million tons in 2010. This was a 148 percent increase. Plant foaming is used most often in producing WMA. Additives accounted for about 17 percent of the total WMA production in 2009 and 8 percent in 2010.

RSL Asphalt Recycling Animation Movie

 RSL Asphalt Recycling Animation Movie
2.50 minutes

What Is The Average Lifespan Of Asphalt?

How long does asphalt pavement last?
On average, asphalt remains intact for 25 years; however, there are numerous factors that can affect its lifespan, such as the climate, traffic and whether or not the owner performs routine maintenance.
Can water damage pavement?
Over time, water seeps underneath the asphalt and can cause it to slowly erode. If the road is situated in a cold climate, the water will turn into ice and expand, and as a result, any cracks or small holes in the pavement will become larger.
Do climates that are especially hot and dry allow asphalt to last longer?
Exceptionally hot climates can increase the level of oxidation within the asphalt. Over time, the pavement will become brittle more swiftly than it would if the asphalt was located in a temperate climate.
Does filling cracks actually provide long-term benefits for asphalt?
Yes. Adding sealant to cracks as soon as they appear will prevent the small cracks from growing.
How does sealing asphalt extend its lifespan?
Sealing asphalt pavement can prevent moisture from penetrating its surface. It can also substantially slow the rate of oxidation of the underlying pavement.
Does pavement maintain its strength for all 25 years of its lifespan?
Without routine maintenance, most types of asphalt will provide approximately 90 percent of their original level of structural integrity after 10 years. Once 20 years have passed, the asphalt will only have 55 percent of its initial durability.



  1. Nice Post, Thanks For sharing....... A bitumen rejuvenate that reverses the effects of oxidisation in asphalt.This is the most cost effective asphalt preservation system on the market.

  2. Thanks Robert, I didn't find that in my research.

  3. Just discovered this (on twitter). Thanks for compiling all this.

    Another issue with roads is all the habitat lost simply to pavement. Also, all the animals killed by vehicles and plants killed by road salt.