Bitumen Market and Application
85-90 per cent of the UK's bitumen supply is used in the construction and maintenance of roads.
Bitumen is used as a binder for aggregates to produce hot mix asphalts and macadams. Typically hot bitumen is delivered to a fixed asphalt plant where the hot mixture is produced and then transported to the road site for laying and compaction to produce the finished road surface. Different specification binders allow the road construction industry to create surfaces that facilitate different performance.
This is a process commonly used for road maintenance. It normally consists of spraying a thin film of binder onto the road surface using a mobile spray vehicle. This is immediately followed by the application of a layer of stone chippings that are rolled to embed them into the surface. Emulsions and cutbacks are usually used in the spray application.
Variations on these two main themes have also been developed for bituminous road surfacings.
Bitumen Types and Their Uses:
- Paving Grades - road surfacing, and some industrial applications
- Hard Grades - paints and enamels, etc.
- Oxidised/Blown Grades - roofing, waterproofing, electrical products, and many others
- Cutback Bitumens - spraying and some mixing applications
- Bitumen Emulsions - used largely in road surfacing applications
- Polymer Modified Binders (PMBs) - there are different types and they can be used for many of the applications mentioned above
Bitumens are also used in flooring materials (mastic asphalt), to back carpet tiles, as joint sealants, in pipe coating (both land and marine), in automotive applications, as adhesives and for numerous other applications.