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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.
Poor performing mixes in the past have given recycled asphalt pavement (RAP) a bad rap, but Surface Tech has developed a new mix design system that can go head-to-head with lower RAP mixes in both crack and rut resistant performance.
Surface Tech’s REARM HR can help increase the amount of RAP in your mix up to 50 percent while adding toughness and tensile strength to boot. And it can all be accomplished without increasing costs. That means you can add years of life to your next pavement project and save on maintenance in the process.
Surface Tech developed REARM HR specifically to solve RAP woes. In the past, mixes with high-RAP content turned brittle and performed poorly. With REARM, you can add a higher percentage of RAP with confidence. It combines Surface Tech’s aramid fiber product with an engineered bio oil to produce a superior mix design that goes down smoothly and won’t get brittle.
Let us partner with you to help responsibly reduce those stockpiles of RAP with a high-quality mix you can count on. With Surface Tech’s REARM HR technology, you get cost control, ease of use at the plant or onsite, and plenty of supply. And you can finally tell those RAP mountains to take a hike.
For more information, contact us.
Hall Paving in Louisville, KY, recently discovered the sweet spot for using more RAP while keeping costs in line with traditional low-RAP pavement mixes. It’s a new development from Surface Tech called REARM HR™, the combination of a highly engineered bio-oil and aramid fibers that allows up to 50% RAP usage. This REAM HR™ project utilized the following in the 3/8” 5 NMAS; 5.6% PG64-22 total AC mix design:
Lampton Avenue Project — 10-14-2020
- 36% RAP (recycled asphalt pavement)
- TUFFTREK 4007
- ACE XP POLYMER FIBER™ from Surface Tech
A total of 900 tons was produced for the three-mile project. Hall Paving succeeded in developing a mix design that added ACE XP POLYMER FIBER™ to every ton of asphalt at a neutral cost. The mix also increased the percentage of RAP over the standard 20% RAP design, while maintaining the cracking and rutting performance of lower RAP % mixes.
ACE XP POLYMER FIBER™ aramid fibers strengthen the asphalt mix by providing increased tensile flexibility, which improves both cracking and rutting performance. TUFFTREK 4007 softens the virgin binder to compensate for the aged binder from the higher percentage RAP content. The resulting pavement resists rutting in hot weather and cracking through cold winters.
Final analysis: Pavement that lasts longer and requires less maintenance over its life span. In other words, the same up-front cost + lower maintenance costs = Big Win.
“Hall Paving was extremely excited about the way the mix went down and compacted,” said Joe Dennis, Surface Tech’s Chief Technical Officer for Asphalt. And the City was blown away by the look and performance going down. It’s really a smooth roadway.”
This mix was under the microscope! Blankenship Asphalt Tech and Training (BATT) assisted Surface Tech in testing and developing the successful formula and verified the mix with Hamburg Wheel Tracker and IDEAL-CT testing for rut and crack resistance. Surface Tech provided quality control support on site during production. S&ME was also on site to check overall quality on behalf of Louisville Metro.
Hall Paving used a pump system for adding TuffTrek 4007 from totes in line with the PG64-22 asphalt binder and dosed the ACE XP POLYMER FIBER™ into the HMA plant using Surface Tech’s Automated Micro Doser – MD3+. All parties agreed, the results were outstanding.
If you’re ready to increase the amount of RAP in your next project, plus get a tougher pavement at no extra cost, contact us.
REARM HR, (formerly called SMART RAP) Surface Tech’s new sustainable technology that increases the use of recycled asphalt pavement (RAP) in asphalt mixes, made a positive impression on ATS Construction on a recent project in Lexington.
“ATS was achieving 95 to 96 percent compaction in the field with six roller passes. They were super impressed, and the project went very smoothly,” said Joe Dennis, Surface Tech’s Chief Technology Officer for Asphalt.
Two separate roadways were paved with a mix design that consisted of 45% RAP with 5.7% total binder content. A section of Cedar Road utilized a 150-ton mix comprised of a single dose (4.2 oz. / Plant Mix Ton) of Surface Tech’s 38mm para-aramid polymer fiber product along with TUFFTREK 4007 (4.2% of total asphalt content) by Georgia Pacific Chemical, an engineered bio-oil. The Cedar Road REARM HR additives were mixed with the PG 58-28 Binder and replaced a 15% RAP mix with a 45% RAP mix.
On Mercer Road, a 250-ton mix using PG 58-22 utilized a double dose (8.4 oz. / Plant Mix Ton) of Surface Tech’s 38mm para-aramid polymer fiber with the same percentage of the engineered bio-oil. The double dose of the para-aramid polymer fiber was used to replace the PG 76-22 binder used in the 15% RAP control section to ensure rutting control in the REARM HR mix. Both mixes achieved 47.5% total binder replacement.
REARM HR solves the age-old problem of premature cracking in RAP mixes while also increasing the amount of RAP content from a typical 15% up to 50%. TUFFTREK 4007 softens the virgin binder to offset the oxidized RAP binder, while the para-aramid polymer fibers provide reinforcement to improve both rutting and cracking resistance in the final mixture.
“Overall, I have to say this project was one of the best asphalt pavements I have seen to date,” said Dennis. “We’re looking forward to working with Hall Construction in early October when we’ll place another 800 tons using REARM HR.”
LA JOLLA – REARM HR, a product from Surface Tech, LLC allows higher Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement (RAP) asphalt concrete mix designs to meet performance requirements while lowering costs.
RAP, a recycled product used in hot mix asphalt, typically has to be used in lower concentrations than the dosages available with REARM HR in order to meet performance specifications.
Surface Tech’s REARM HR uses their ACE XP Polymer Fiber™ and includes TUFFTREK 4007 from Georgia-Pacific Chemicals. By varying the dosage of each product, field tests and lab studies indicate high RAP mix designs with these products can provide equal to, or enhanced cracking and rutting performance compared to that of lower RAP mixes. These high RAP designs reduce the amount of virgin binder and virgin aggregate needed, resulting in lower costs.
ACE XP Polymer Fiber™ is used to reinforce the resulting combined binder with 10 to 20 million individual high strength 38mm aramid fibers, depending on dosage. TUFFTREK 4007 is used to soften the virgin binder’s PG which compensates for the additional aged RAP binder.
“This is a SMART choice for asphalt producers,” says Joe Dennis, VP & Chief Technical Officer at Surface Tech. “TUFFTREK 4007 and ACE XP Polymer Fiber™ are introduced at the plant during production. This puts the control with the plant and allows for the HIGH RAP mixes to be started and stopped as necessary to accommodate other manufacturing needs.”
“We are excited that Surface Tech is able to use our product for this innovative asphalt additive that has the potential to reshape the way we think about high-RAP mixes in road construction,” says Ryan Lynch, Senior Commercial Development Manager at Georgia-Pacific Chemicals.
Fig 1 – IDEAL CT and Hamburg Wheel Tracker Data for Control Mix with 5.6% PG 64-22 Virgin Binder and 20% RAP. High Rap Mix with 36% RAP, TUFFTREK 4007 & 38mm ACE XP Polymer Fiber. Testing Performed by Blankenship Asphalt Tech & Training.
Virginia DOT has witnessed how the Balanced Mix Design (BMD) methodology can lead to better paving solutions in the laboratory, and now the agency is taking it to the streets with a new field-testing initiative. At the end of August, Colony Construction paved two sections of Route 903 in Mecklenburg County, VA (Richmond District) using VDOT’s new BMD approach for asphalt pavement design.
REARM HR, (formerly known as SMART RAP) Surface Tech’s new sustainable technology, was chosen to be evaluated alongside a control pavement. The technology has proven effective on VDOT’s required cracking and rutting performance under the BMD Initiative, while also increasing the use of recycled asphalt pavement (RAP) from 15% to 35%.
Two challenges were overcome with this mix design. First, the location of Colony Construction’s Plant — 50+ miles from the worksite — posed a compaction and temperature concern. Second, the available RAP or millings, sourced mostly from county road rehabilitation where the average roadway is repaved almost half as often as other VDOT roadways, left the resulting RAP binder considerably oxidized and hard.
Colony Construction’s RAP pile graded out at PG 110 (10), which made it mandatory to soften this RAP binder before it could be used in BMD, especially since the test called for adding more than 15% RAP to the mixture. A 35% RAP content was not envisioned when the project started in lab testing.
A 1,400-ton section of Route 903 utilized a single dose (4.2 oz. / Plant Mix Ton) of Surface Tech’s 38mm para-aramid polymer fiber product along with TUFFTREK 4007 (3.4% of total asphalt content) by Georgia Pacific Chemical, an engineered bio-oil. The REARM HR additives were mixed with the PG 58-28 Binder, in a 6.0% Asphalt Content with a 35% RAP mix.
The mix was produced in Colony Construction’s plant in Burkeville, VA, which is approximately an hour away from the paving location just north of the North Carolina border. Consequently, a warm mix additive was also used to ensure proper compaction after the long haul and cooler installation temperatures.
At the end of the second day, a 200-ton section was laid using a double dose (8.4 oz./ Plant Mix Ton) of Surface Tech’s para-aramid polymer fibers while holding steady the TUFFTREK 4007, the RAP percentage and the binder type and quantity at the previous dosage amounts.
TUFFTREK 4007 softened the virgin binder in the oxidized RAP, while the para-aramid polymer fibers provided reinforcement to improve both rutting and cracking resistance in the final mixture. Surface Tech supplied a new dosing pump to ensure accurate dosing of the TUFFTREK bio-oil, and the company also utilized its own MD3 dosing machine to feed the para-aramid polymer fibers into the mix. The project was completed in two days at a production speed between 150 to 175 tph.
“We were able to provide a better performing asphalt and increase the use of RAP at the same time because of our technology,” said Joe Dennis, Surface Tech’s Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Asphalt.
Early IDEAL CT testing at the plant revealed a 25% to 40% increase in the CT INDEX over the control pavement for the single dose and a 50% increase for the double dose.
“It was great to see RAP used as part of the BMD initiative,” said Travis Cable from Colony Construction. “Of course, the REARM HR technology allowed this important resource to be utilized in a much bigger way while not sacrificing performance — truly amazing.”.
“Virginia DOT was pleased to see a high RAP mix, and especially to see it work so beautifully,” said Dennis.
The agency is now interested in putting Surface Tech’s new ARMI™ product to work. ARMI™ is the company’s revolutionary reflective crack relief interlayer solution that vastly improves crack resistance. A pilot project is planned for the spring of 2021.
New REARM HR achieves high-level performance in asphalt concrete
Poor performing mixes in the past have given RAP a bad rap, but Surface Tech and Georgia-Pacific Chemicals have developed a sustainable new mix design technology that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with traditional lower RAP mixes in both crack and rut resistant performance tests.
By combining Surface Tech’s AQU Polymer Fiber™ and TUFFTREK 4007 from Georgia Pacific Chemicals, you can achieve up to 50 percent RAP usage and reduce the amount of virgin binder and aggregates in the mix. The REARM HR technology (formerly known as SMART RAP) also allows you to reduce the use of polymer modified binders.
Best of all, you can chip away at those mountains of RAP, pave more roads at a lower cost and achieve an improved carbon footprint through recycling and lowering CO2 emissions. And you can kiss poor performance good-bye, thanks to the unique strengths of each product.
TUFFTREK 4007 is used to soften the virgin binder’s PG, which compensates for the addition of aged RAP binder. AQU Polymer Fiber™ reinforces the resulting combined binder with high strength 38mm aramid fibers. In lab tests, the IDEAL CT crack test (ASTM D8225) and the Hamburg Wheel Tracker rut test (AASHTO T324) demonstrate that REARM HR compares favorably to a low-RAP control mix.
Want to learn more? Give us a call. Let us partner with you to help reduce your stockpiles of RAP with a high-quality asphalt concrete mix you can count on — and that will give you important sustainable benefits.
For more information, contact us.