A bitumen reactor – the first of its kind in Africa, and the second of its kind in the world – that can, among other things, modify and enhance bitumen penetration grades for the local roads industry, will be one of the key products highlighted at this year’s Conference on Asphalt Pavements for Southern Africa (Capsa).
The reactor forms part of bituminous road binders, emulsions, primes and precoats manufacturer and supplier SprayPave’s product portfolio, which will be showcased at Capsa from August 16 to 19 at Sun City, in the North West.
While the reactor is currently being fabricated in New Zealand, SprayPave commercial manager Phil Chirnside believes the product will be ready for full local production in the first quarter of 2016, adding that the company presented the advantages of the reactor at the most recent Road Pavements Forum meeting, held in Cape Town, in June.
“These advantages include the conversion of a vacuum residue into effective, penetration-grade bitumen, while inferior, or substandard-quality, bitumen can be manipulated on a molecular level into a superior-quality bitumen.
“Moreover, with certain chemical additives, the reactor can enhance bitumen to become a multigrade bitumen with specifications and performance characteristics spanning several penetration grades,” Chirnside says.
The introduction of the bitumen reactor forms part of SprayPave’s measures to mitigate the current challenges in the asphalt and bituminous road binder industries, says Chirnside, emphasising that these include the trough and peak supply of bitumen, as well as the different grades of bitumen required for seals in road designs.
While local refineries produce only one or selected penetration grades of bitumen, such as bitumen of only 70/100, which is produced in Cape Town, asphalt manufacturers require a 50/70-penetration-grade bitumen. Therefore, it is significant that this bitumen reactor can convert 70/100-penetration grade bitumen to 50/70 or even 10/20, which is required for new high modulus asphalt designs, he explains.
“It is fundamental for end- users to acquire the best-quality product at the required volumes and at the best possible price, particularly in a price-driven and production-rate-driven industry hampered by narrow margins,” Chirnside emphasises.
Meanwhile, SprayPave is an ISO 9001-certified company and its products are South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) approved. Further, the company is in the process of obtaining South African National Standards accreditation for its three company laboratories in Cape Town, Western Cape; Bothas Hill, in KwaZulu-Natal; and Alrode South, in Gauteng.
Noting a gradual influx of smaller players in the bituminous emulsion manufacturing industry, Chirnside suggests that they are able to enter the market without experiencing any significant barriers to entry and without any real scrutiny of their product quality.
“However, with the South African National Roads Agency Limited’s policy of accepting only SABS-certified products, SprayPave also aims to highlight the importance of quality, aiming to remain at the forefront of this drive.