SPEECH OF JEAN-LOUIS MARCHAND
PRESIDENT OF EAPA, held at the 8th Mexican Asphalt Congress on 28 – 30 August 2013 in Cancun, Mexico
Every year the whole of Europe produces about 320 million tons of asphalt, with a little over 4000 asphalt plants, the main producers being, according to their economy, Germany, France, UK, Italy and Spain. The first item I wanted to speak about is Health and Safety, and more precisely the subject of the level of carcinogenicity of the bitumen used in asphalt pavement.
I will not remind you of all the work that has been done over more than 20 years to better know the risks for the workers during paving operations, I will just mention that the EAPA has spent more than 2.5 million US dollars to finance studies made by the IARC, International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Occupational exposures to bitumens and bitumen emissions during paving operations are classified 2-B, and Occupational exposures to bitumens and bitumen emissions during roofing works are classified 2-A.
What is the difference between 2-B and 2-A?
2-B means it is possibly carcinogenic, it means it is theoretical possible that there is a link between cancer and the bitumen used in paving operations. We know that there are components in bitumen that are carcinogenic , like benzo a pyrene, but it does not mean that these components are active when confined in the bitumen. 2-B means, it is possible, but we have never seen, until now, a link between cancer and the bitumen used in paving operations, either in animals, or humans.
2-A means that it is probably carcinogenic; probably means that at least one case has been recorded, one case showing a link with a cancer, in animals or humans.
Why are occupational exposures to bitumen and bitumen emissions during roofing works classified 2-A?
Because of one study made in the USA with mice, suffering from skin cancers after having been exposed.
But the fact is that the bitumen used in this study and in these roofing operations was oxidized bitumen, and more precisely fully oxidized bitumen, which differs from the air rectified bitumen, which we use sometimes in paving operations.
The problem is: fully oxidized bitumen and air rectified bitumen have the same CAS number, which is a number assigned by the Chemical Abstract Service to every chemical described in the open scientific literature.
The question is therefore: how do we distinguish the bitumen we use for paving operations from the one used for roofing.
The IARC report gives us an answer: through the Penetration Index: The fully oxidized bitumens used in roofing operations have a PI above 2. No link between cancer and bitumen with PI below 2 has ever been established.
Because of the growing demand in Health and safety, and because of the fact that our works can impact everybody approaching a paver or a truck loaded with asphalt, we will be more and more obliged to ensure that we do not use recognized carcinogenic bitumen, a which will be the case if we only use bitumen with PI below 2.
This is all brand new. The final report of the IARC was only published two months ago. The so-called “Bitumen International Health Forum” which represents the whole Industry, oil companies, pavers, roofers from Europe and North America, will meet next week in Washington, to speak about the consequences of this report.
The BIHF has worked a lot for many years to give the IARC all requested information. I think that over the next few years we can live with this report, thanks to the penetration index, which will allow us to explain that the bitumen we use is not carcinogenic.
I cannot speak today about the conclusion of the BIHF meeting next week in Washington. But I tell you the opinions I will express about the IARC report:
- First of all, we have to do everything in our power to obtain two different CAS numbers for air rectified bitumen and oxidized bitumen.
- We also have to prepare our companies to be knowledgeable about the penetration index, and as far as possible not to use bitumen with a PI above 2.
- and finally professional associations have to work together to stay at the highest level of knowledge about possible carcinogenicity from bitumen: the new monograph confirms that there is no evidence of a link between the bitumen used in road paving and cancer. But nobody can be absolutely sure today that there is no link; it means we have to continue to work on this, and maybe to contribute to the financing of new studies.
The collateral effect of the IARC report is the confirmation of the importance of the asphalt temperature: higher temperatures lead to higher emissions. And even if the emissions are not carcinogenic, it is known that the bitumen fumes are irritating. In Europe we have not worked enough on this issue; we were too concentrated on the carcinogenicity, and forgot to pay enough attention to the irritation generated by the fumes.
It is very interesting to compare what has happened in Europe and in the USA:
Everybody in Europe wants to ensure sustainable development: this is the reason, why, at the end of the nineties, we invented warm mixes, to reduce the emission of CO2 when producing asphalt. There has been strong competition between companies, every one trying to reach the lowest temperature. We have been very innovative, and for the time being, there are dozens of different ways to produce warm mixes in Europe, from 90 to 140 Celsius degrees, dozens, using organic or chemical additives, or foaming techniques based on mineral additives or water-based mechanical systems.
But we have not been able to choose which ones we wanted to develop, we have not been able to explain to clients what the advantages of warm mixes are, and we have not been able to adapt our equipment to produce with competitive costs; as already said, 28 different languages does not make things easy.
What has happened in the US?
- Some American guys came to Europe in 2002. They discovered the warm mixes we had invented. Americans understood immediately that it was the right answer to reduce fumes. They knew that below 135C°, there are no longer any fumes; no fumes, no irritation; they decided to equip all their asphalt plants with the required devices to introduce foam. And if needed, if requested by clients, they are able to produce warm mixes at lower temperatures through other methods.
The results are interesting;
- in 2012 about 100 million tons of warm mixes were produced in the US, one third of the whole production.
- during the same time in Europe, we achieved less than 13 million, less than 5 per cent.
One year ago in France, as President of the USIRF, the French professional association, with the agreement of all the members, I signed an official recommendation saying that except in the case of client refusal, we will use only warm mixes in paving operations.
I know all the questions relating to the uses of warm mixes, but I also know the answers, and there is no reason for not doing everything we can to develop the use of warm mixes as quickly as possible! I do not know anybody, any country, any county, any client, any company, who has regretted choosing this solution.
I repeat what I said in my closing speech in Istanbul: if we should choose only one priority, if only one conviction should remain, that is that we must really do our best to reduce the temperature of asphalt use, because:
- it saves energy
- it limits CO2 emissions
- it cuts costs
- it avoids or reduces bitumen fumes.
“The reduction of the temperature is for asphalt the only sustainable way to success”.
I have already mentioned the necessity of working on sustainable development: what does that mean for road construction: mainly two things:
- a reduction of energy consumption and a reduction of GHG emissions: we can achieve that by reducing the temperature.
- a reduction in the use of natural resources: we can achieve that through recycling.
Going back to the reduction of GHG which are mainly CO2, do you know how many kg of CO2 are emitted by producing one ton of Asphalt? The answer, in Europe, is about 35 kg. I do not think there is a big difference in the Americas. It is interesting to consider, that by producing WMA, you can reduce these CO2 emissions by 20%, but you have to add the emissions generated during the production of the additives, if you use additives.
A few words about the additives.
In France, we have been very innovative for ages, developing many products using bitumen and additives, not only polymer but also fibers, from cellulose but also from asbestos!
You have no idea of the difficulties we now have to develop recycling in France!
While Germany, the US and the Netherlands recycle more than 90 % of the RAP (Recycled Asphalt product) available, in France we are only at 60%, this means every year we waste more than 2 million tons of aggregates, including 100 000 tons of bitumen we could reuse, but we do not!
What does that mean? When we innovate with a new product, we have to think carefully about the consequences of the whole system in the future.
We are not managing products any more, we are managing a system including materials, natural or already used, equipment which has to be adapted, and workers, who have to be protected.
Asphalt is 100% recyclable, but only if it has not been polluted by unsuited additives, or other inappropriate industrial waste.
I mentioned the 35 kg of CO2 emitted by producing one ton of asphalt. Do you know how many kg of CO2 are emitted by producing one ton of concrete?
About ten times more!
Despite this point, we are under pressure from the cement industry; there has been strong pressure for three years in the US, and there is growing pressure in Europe.
Between us, we are convinced that asphalt is the best and, most of the time, the only solution for the creation and the maintenance of a sustainable road network. But our main problem is to explain that to our clients.
I am always astonished when I feel the gap between what we can provide, and the understanding our clients have about what we deliver; the gap between what we can provide and the readiness of the clients to pay for that.
Road construction techniques have become increasingly sophisticated; they offer the possibility of choosing between such priorities as cost, preservation of resources and energy savings, according to the lifecycle. Companies develop tools for their clients in order to compare different variants. Companies are able to do more with less. But they have to be challenged, and they must be free to submit innovative offers.
Clients have to express what they really want, but they have no indicators to measure and describe the performance and the level of service delivered by roads or related infrastructures; it becomes a duty for both companies and professional associations to help the “owners”, generally local administrations, to inform the end clients, the one who will enjoy and use the infrastructure we build, to inform him about what can really be built, for what price, and with which level of service.
Yesterday, here in Cancun, there was a very interesting seminar about the uses of the nanotechnologies for flexible pavement: I do not know how many client representatives could really follow the works. But what really has to remain in mind, is the obligation we are facing to be able to
translate, to explain what it really brings both to the client and to the end user to use nanotechnologies for flexible pavement.
Our challenges are well-known:
- beside energy and carbon reduction and the necessity to recycle aggregates, we have to work on a long life pavement concept, it means a pavement where no significant deterioration will develop in
the foundations or the road base layers as long as appropriate surface maintenance is carried out. We have to understand and to explain what we often observe, which is that well-constructed pavements often have a very long life.
- we also have to work on durable surface layers, to reduce road closures due to maintenance.
- we have to reduce noise generated through the contact between the tires and the road, for example by using porous asphalts. It is easy to measure and it is a good example of what we can achieve.
I will not mention research to reduce the fuel consumption of the cars using the roads. Because you only need one hour of discussion with a representative of the tire industry to understand that if the
tire manufacturers no longer have the possibility to reduce the noise generated by the wheels, they still have many solutions to significantly reduce the energy consumed through the rolling resistance.
Tire manufacturers laugh when they hear about studies showing that concrete pavements allow a 5% reduction in the petrol used by the car!
But it is a success for the cement industry to have put this idea on the table, and in Europe we are now obliged to demonstrate that it is not relevant.
It illustrates once again that we must think more and more about Key Performance Indicators, describing absolutely all the services provided by the infrastructures we build.
It can only be done through close cooperation between clients and contractors, helped by professional associations. More knowledge and responsibility is moving from the road authority to the companies, we shall progress from detailed mixture descriptions in the specifications to functional requirements and guarantees of performance levels.
In Europe some countries have started to work this way. It appears to be the only way to convince politicians they have to put money into the construction and maintenance of road networks, and to optimize the money they have decided to invest.
In doing this, the main problem is the lack of reliable data about existing networks, and the difficulties we have in knowing what has to be done just to maintain the existing service level.
France has the biggest network in Europe, but the same problem exists in the other European countries.
What could that mean for you?
You should not hesitate to create an information system describing your network. Today there are many possibilities to do that, using new Information Technologies and available software, which was not the case 10 or 20 years ago. Having done that, you will be prepared to anticipate what you really need to develop to guarantee an efficient and sustainable road network.
I will end my presentation by a few words about the impacts of new technologies on our businesses.
New technologies are changing the world, they will change the ways we work. Nano or biotechnologies will bring us more knowledge about the materials we use or we used, and more possibilities to optimize structures and to better prevent some risks.
But the main changes will come through Information technologies, that will give road users the possibility to react instantly in the case of problems or damage observed on the network. It will increase the pressure on politicians to do something about maintaining the roads, which will be good for us and for our market.
But, as a company, we will also fall under pressure with people asking more and more questions about what we are doing, why, for what price, requiring to be quickly informed about the planning of the works and the disruptions that are foreseen. The pressure will be especially high in urban areas, where we work more and more.
I see this future pressure as a big opportunity for our business, because it will open doors enabling us to explain what we do, allowing us to communicate about our knowledge and to show how interesting and challenging it is to build and maintain roads.
This use of IT in our businesses can be above all an opportunity to change the image of our activities, and to attract qualified young people to our companies.
Because the main challenge we have to face in the future will not be to ensure that we get enough money to build and maintain roads, it will be to find and to train the people able to do the jobs.
I have arrived at the end of my presentation. I am aware that I could have mentioned a lot of other things and I apologize for that. You can find more information or details on the EAPA website.
Thank you very much for your attention.