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Everyone can agree that 2020 was a year for the record books. As an essential industry, we certainly faced many challenges due to COVID-19. With the coming vaccine, we’re all hoping for an improved new year, at least in the area of personal health. But what about the health of the asphalt industry? Here are a few of the challenges we see on the horizon for 2021:
Congress thankfully passed a one-year extension of the surface transportation reauthorization programs this year, but a multi-year highway bill is still much needed. There is hope that the new administration and Congress can come together to address our sagging infrastructure.
Congress faces a tremendous amount of pressure from a public fed up with crumbling bridges and bumpy roads. Unfortunately, it seems unwilling or unable to create funding that provides for long-term infrastructure planning. Whether we’ll be stuck with the same old one-year-to-the-next, Band-Aid approach to funding remains to be seen.
At the state and local levels, the COVID pandemic has negatively impacted tax revenues, forcing belt-tightening. The paving industry has developed new and needed solutions to cracking and rutting problems, but a low-bid environment can make it difficult to get them into play.
Possible binder shortages
Asphalt binder is a refined product, and refineries are closing or idling due to a decrease in demand caused by the pandemic and environmental pressures. The looming binder crisis started in the mid-2000s, when the number of refineries making asphalt dropped due to improvements in coker units that enabled them to squeeze more fuel from crude. Refineries that use cokers now produce asphalt in lower-to-none quantities. Adding insult to injury, fuel demand is not expected to rebound to pre-COVID levels anytime soon — maybe never.
New fuel regulations from the International Maritime Organization calling for reductions of sulfur content may also impact the asphalt industry. The regulations could create more asphalt supply, but the regulations are voluntary, but maybe not, as it’s expected that most shippers will comply.
Polymer modified asphalt binders will be affected as well since both are derived from petroleum. Hence, polymer modified asphalt (PMA) will be increasingly hard to produce as well. It’s obvious, too, that the price for both base binders and PMAs could surpass many project budgets.
The struggle toward adopting new mix designs
The Superpave mix design method has served as the go-to for more than 30 years in the United States. It has undergone several revisions in an effort to improve the durability and performance of asphalt mixes, but it’s certainly beginning to show its age. The increased use of reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) now challenges contractors and agencies to find a new mix design method that will reliably produce durable, long lasting pavements. The trend over the last 20 years has been one-sided — fixing the ruts at the expense of the cracks.
The development of new design approaches, such as the Balanced Mix Design or Performance Engineered Mixes came into being to address the need for creating pavement designs that perform well in resisting both rutting and cracking. Both show exemplary results in their ability to devise mixes that perform well both in terms of workability and longevity.
Unfortunately, Superpave is as embedded in the paving lexicons as aggregate is in asphalt. Superpave5 (based on adjusting volumetric design targets) attempts to put some distance between the design methods of the 1970s, when Superpave was initially developed. But this is proof positive that Superpave’s roots in the industry go deep and pulling them toward newer, better methods will require patience and persistence.
Where are the opportunities?
Obviously, we have to get creative when it comes to meeting project needs within budget constraints. Surface Tech has developed a range of products that combine para-aramid fibers, well-researched mineralogy and advanced mix design methodologies to build stronger, longer-lasting pavements.
In the end, our industry has to wake up to the fact that smarter mixes do exist. We’ve developed mixes with ACE XP® polymer fibers that can replace typical pavement repairs with high performance, thinner overlays that improve the repair, save money and extend the service life better than overlays of the past.
We’ve pioneered mixes like ARMI™ that can cut costs in interlayer constructions by eliminating third party fabrics and extending the service life of the repaired asphalt pavement. And our REARM HR can help replace that missing asphalt supply with existing RAP piles — using up to 50 percent RAP content while still improving performance. And these are just a few examples of the solutions we offer.
Sure, there are challenges ahead, but at Surface Tech we believe in innovation, technology and never giving up. 2021? Bring it on.
Try it using our Good, Better, Best & Test Program
We recently introduced ARMI™, a new and vastly improved Reflective Cracking Relief Interlayer (RCRI) from Surface Tech. ARMI™ utilizes our ACE XP Polymer Fiber, made from one of the strongest man-made fibers in existence — aramid. That means the same fibers that provide armor for soldiers can now armor your next asphalt overlay to hold its ground against water penetration to the subgrade and deliver seven times greater crack resistance compared to standard asphalt mixes.
To help speed the introduction of this next-level RCRI, Surface Tech has developed the Good, Better, Best & Test Program.
Introducing the Good, Better, Best & Test Program by Surface Tech
Our 5-Step program begins by helping you better understand the condition of your existing pavement. It all starts with the numbers. The remaining steps guide you through determining which level of our Aramid Pavement Solution Platform, including ARMI , will work good, better or best with your numbers to achieve the level of performance improvement you desire for your budget.
As part of our program, we recommend using IDEAL-CT and Hamburg Wheel Test (HWT) to establish the cracking and rutting performance of your existing mix designs to set the baseline. Once this baseline is established, 4.2 oz. / ton and 8.4 oz. / ton of ACE XP Polymer Fiber should be lab mixed into these mix designs to establish the improved IDEAL-CT Index and associated HWT rut depth. This testing will provide a better Balance Mix Design protecting against both cracking and rutting.
The program works to match the right Aramid Pavement Solution with the cracking severity. Each project can then be categorized by cracking severity (Moderate, Severe and Very Severe). Once established, the correct Good, Better & Best solution can then be selected based on both performance and budget expectations.
What’s in your asphalt? Put an ARMI™ to work to help you find out!
Join us as we attack the ruts and cracks wreaking havoc on our nation’s pavements. Put our 5-Step Program to work for you — and for the entire asphalt pavement industry. Together, we can combine engineering know-how, investigation, quantification, mix design and testing to achieve the long-elusive goal of creating a balanced mix design, including RCRI, that finally conquers rutting and cracking.
For information on ARMI™ Reinforced RCRI and our Good, Better Best & Test Program, contact Joe Dennis, Chief Technology Officer for Asphalt.
Surface Tech welcomes Michael J. Simons, P. Eng. to our team as Technical Director for Canada. He will work to bring a greater focus and increased awareness to the company’s cornerstone asphalt product — ACE XP Polymer Fiber and launch the company’s newest asphalt product — ARMI (Aramid Reinforced Mix Interlayer).
Michael holds a B.E.Sc. in Civil Engineering from the University of Western Ontario and has gained a considerable level of technical expertise through his 27 years of experience in the construction industry. His resumé includes work with road building contractors, civil and geotechnical engineering consultants and geosynthetic manufacturers and distributors. Over the course of his career, he has held business development, technical and senior management roles.
Michael was introduced to ACE XP Polymer Fiber in 2016 while working with Nilex Inc. as the General Manager, Ontario. He quickly became a major driving force in Canada educating clients about the benefits of adopting of polymer fiber-reinforced asphalt pavements. Working with Owners and Engineers, he will apply his extensive background in design, construction and promotion of geosynthetic systems across Canada to provide improved and innovative solutions to their pavement challenges.
Asphalt Producers 101:
Using ACE XP & ARMI Polymer Fibers in Plant Production
Thurs. May 14, 2020 – 1pm CDT
This series of three webinars is exploring how performance testing can drive the future improvement of asphalt mix designs.
In this third and final webinar, Phil Blankenship of Blankenship Asphalt Tech & Training, will discuss advancements in mix design using ACE XP Polymer Fiber and ARMI Reflective Crack Interlayer products. Both of these innovative products help achieve a better balance between cracking and rutting.
The two-hour webinar will include plant set-up, equipment available from Surface Tech for plant blending of the Aramid fibers, plant training and certification, and how producers can make more money when utilizing these advanced technology products.
Lastly, Phil will walk you through the newest crack testing procedures for running IDEAL CT crack tests in the typical plant materials lab.
Time for Q&A is built into the two-hour webinar, and PDH credits are available for those attending.
1st of ASPHALT 101 webinar series: Thurs. Apr. 16, 2020 – 12pm CDT
Where do today’s asphalt designs come from and where do they need to go for improvement? Phil Blankenship of Blankenship Asphalt Tech & Training will kick off the first of a series of three webinars that will explore how performance testing can drive the future improvement of asphalt mix designs.
In this two-hour webinar, Phil will introduce two main performance tests: IDEAL CT for crack resistance; and the Hamburg Wheel Tracker for rut resistance. He will also discuss advancements in mix design additives, such as ACE XP Polymer Fiber and ARMI. Both of these innovative products help achieve a better balance between cracking and rutting.
PDH credits are available for participants for each webinar, and ample time is allotted for Q&A. To register for the first webinar, click the link below.
We’re looking forward to sharing ideas and information at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) 99th Annual Meeting. Our industry can be proud of the many accomplishments and improvements we have made to roads and highways over the past 99 years. Surface Tech will be sharing its own material advancements in two Solutions Showcase Theater presentations. Aramid Fiber reinforcement of asphalt pavements will also be presented during break-out sessions by several presenters. We invite you to join us.
Monday, January 13, 11:30AM
Advancements in Aramid Reinforcement Technology for Asphalt Pavements
•Joe Dennis, Vice President/Chief Technology Officer of Asphalt, Surface Tech
•Phil Blankenship, Chief Engineer, Blankenship Asphalt Tech and Training, PLLC
•Dr. Bill Buttlar, Mizzou Pavement & Innovation Lab (MAPIL)
rThe latest advancements in Aramid Reinforcement Technology can extend the service life of asphalt pavements. Through IDEAL CT and Hamburg lab performance testing, the improvement in both crack and rut resistance can be determined prior to any pavement being laid using ACE XP Polymer without the need for in-place monitoring programs. Dr. Bill Buttlar from Mizzou Pavement & Innovation Lab (MAPIL) will present his latest findings on performance testing using ACE XP Polymer Fiber pavement mixtures. And finally, Surface Tech will also unveil its newest product, ARMI (Aramid Reinforced Mix Interlayer) which is a Reflective Crack Relief Interlayer (RCRI) with Aramid Reinforcement.
Tuesday, January 14, 11:30AM
JUNO XP: A Revolutionary ASCM Technology
John McConahy, Corporate Sales Director, Surface Tech
Surface Tech’s pioneering product, JUNO XP®, is an advanced supplementary cementitious material that reduces the cost of concrete without sacrificing performance. JUNO XP® can be used to partially substitute traditional cement binders in standard concretes, as well as in other traditional applications, such as Soil Stabilization, Mass Concrete, Shotcrete and above-grade vertical wall construction. John McConahy will share how this revolutionary high-tech material can change the way you look at mix design.
Event 1450 – Use of Fiber Reinforcement in Asphalt
10:15 am to Noon – Tuesday Jan 14th
Sponsored by AFK 30 Committee
Raul Velasquez, Minnesota Department of Transportation
•University of Alberta
Event 1714 – Performance-Engineered Asphalt Mixture Designs
10:15 am to Noon – Wednesday Jan 15th
Sponsored by AFK 50 Committee
Thomas Bennert, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey,
Nathan Morian, Nevada Department of Transportation
•Erdem Coleri, University of Oregon State University
- AFN 10 -Chair Dr John Kreven
- Presentation: Monday 13th 2:30pm - ACSM Defined
- AFN 30 - Chair Gina Ahlstrom
- Presentation - Wednesday 15th 11am ASCM - Today’s Use Reasoning
For severe asphalt cracking or asphalt overlays over Portland cement concrete (PCC), Surface Tech has succeeded in developing a revolutionary new solution that vastly improves crack resistance. Aramid Reinforced Mix Interlayer (ARMI™) provides 7x greater crack resistance as compared to standard asphalt mixes.
ARMI™ utilizes one of the strongest man-made fibers in existence — aramid. That means the same fibers that provide armor for soldiers can now armor your next asphalt pavement Interlayer to hold its ground even after the first one to two surface layers require replacement.
The standard one-inch thick interlayer made from this next-level product can provide unparalleled crack resistance, because it is engineered every time to meet the product’s specifications in both IDEAL CT for cracking and Hamburg Wheel Test for rutting, boosting your pavement’s particular performance needs and expectations.
Best of all, it’s engineered with a special asphalt mix design and liquid binder that can be hot-mixed and hot-laid to stay in place. It withstands the extreme production temperatures of asphalt without change, while producing a three-dimensional reinforcement matrix that reinforces the interlayer against reflective cracking, thermal cracking and surface crack water penetration.
All of the advantages of this superior interlayer product add up to pavements that last longer and reduce costly maintenance and replacements over time. Combining ARMI™ with a surface-mix reinforced with ACE XP Polymer Fiber™ provides the most crack resistant solution on the market today.
ARMI™ attacks challenging projects in poor condition, even those that may have required full-depth reclamation in the past may now be candidates for an ARMI™ Interlayer and overlay solution instead, which saves money.
Put ARMI™ to the test today!
Surface Tech has developed the Good, Better, Best & Test Program as a means for testing ARMI™ on your worst cracked pavement. Our 5-Step program begins with a Surface Tech Asphalt Audit to help you better understand the performance capabilities of the existing mix designs used in your overlay programs.
In most overlay projects today, cracking is the controlling distress. So, it is important to match the right Aramid Pavement Solution with the cracking severity. Once the cracking severity (Moderate, Severe and Very Severe) is established, the correct Good, Better & Best solution can then be selected based on both performance and budget expectations.
Stay tuned for our next blog, where we’ll provide more details on the test program. If you want to get started with ARMI™ today, contact Joe Dennis.