Bitumen is a black, pasty material used in waterproofing insulation and asphalt construction. There are various kinds of bitumen; each of them has its application. Bitumen is a derivative of oil and is often produced in oil refineries. Bitumen is a concentrated, highly viscous, oily substance that is either found in sediments such as petroleum sands and bitumen lakes (natural bitumen) or obtained as a residue from the distillation of crude oil (refined bitumen).
It is dark hydrocarbon that dissolves quietly in carbon sulfide and carbon tetrachloride. Bitumen is in solid form at ambient temperature. But as the temperature increases, it turns to a paste and then to a liquid.
In some regions, bitumen is mostly known as asphalt; however the name is widely used for asphalt paving materials that are made of a combination of sand and other filling materials in a bitumen adhesion. It is often called tar, although tar is another product of coal carbon.
The main use of bitumen is because of the existence of two vital properties of this material.
- Bitumen waterproofing
- Bitumen sealing
Bitumen is obtained by crude oil distillation. This kind of bitumen is called petroleum bitumen or distilled bitumen. Petroleum bitumen is made as a result of two stages of distilling crude oil in the distillation tower. In the first phase of distillation, light materials such as gasoline and propane are extracted from crude oil. The distillation process occurs at around one-atmosphere pressure (units). In the second phase, heavy elements like diesel and kerosene are separated. This process occurs at a pressure close to a vacuum. In the end, asphalt remains which is a very fine mixture of solid particles that is immersed in a greasy fluid called Malton.
However, some sorts of bitumen exist in nature as a result of the conversion of crude oil in a period of time and then gradually volatiles evaporation over many years. This kind of bitumen is called natural bitumen and it has higher durability in comparison with oil bitumen. Natural bitumen is available in nature (lake), for instance, Trinidad Lake in the United States.
Bitumen is a hydrocarbon substance that has unique features and supplements. As a result, there are many bitumen suppliers all around the world. Bitumen sealing has a wider variety than oil, as bitumen has other sources besides oil. Bitumen sealing is divided into the following three categories depending on its bitumen suppliers:
- Natural bitumen
- Petroleum bitumen
- Tar bitumen
Bitumen is a natural resource of hydrocarbon resin that has been found in the modern background on the Bonita River located in northeastern Utah. This natural resource is hardened similarly to crude oil asphalt. Bitumen is as soluble as the natural asphalt in aromatic and aliphatic solvents. Because of the compatibility of this material, it is usable in hardening dilute petroleum derivatives.
Bitumen sealing is used as an adhesive for stone grits in asphalt and driveway construction. More than 85% of the bitumen produced worldwide is used for asphalt and driveway construction. 10% of the bitumen produced in bitumen exporting countries is used in buildings and the remaining 5% is used in various industries to insulate the places.
Bitumen Chemical Composition
The density and adhesion of bitumen are due to its chemical composition, mainly the large hydrocarbon molecules known as asphalt and resin, which are present in lighter oils but are highly concentrated in it. Besides, bitumen often contains large amounts of metals such as nickel and vanadium and non-metallic minerals such as nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur.
Depending on the type of bitumen used, these substances may be contaminants that should be removed from the final product. So a high percentage of refined bitumen is used in asphalting the roads and the roof surface, as is a lot of natural bitumen. However, a high percentage of Canada’s petroleum sands is improved to synthetic crude oil and shipped to refineries for a full range of petroleum products, including gasoline.
Bitumen is mixed with coals in which the coking property is weak and coke is prepared from it. The resulting coke is often used in the sugar industry. Also, from its sulfur-free bitumen types or after desulfurization, a type of coke called needle coke is prepared, which is widely used in electric arc melting furnaces.
Bitumen is one of the products of refined crude oil, which is obtained in a two-step process and can be consumed in pure form or modified according to various fields.
- 60/70 bitumen
60/70 bitumen is sold as standard bitumen for various regions in terms of climate and its most important use is in the production of asphalt or to produce road infrastructure and is offered in bulk or into barrels. The state of bitumen depends on its temperature. The relationship between temperature and hardness of bitumen depends on the type of crude oil and its refining method and the degree of penetration of it is between 60 to 70 degrees Celsius. 60/70 bitumen is used for asphalt production and is mainly used in hot asphalt production for surface coating. The most common use of 60/70 bitumen is being a raw material for other bitumen products. 60/70 loose bitumen is one of the most important and most consumed products of bitumen factories. This type is mainly used in the construction industry and insulation of interior and exterior surfaces of the building, because of this feature, the optimal quality of loose bitumen provided by companies is very crucial and reduces repair and reconstruction costs and other additional costs.
- 85/25 bitumen (mixed bitumen)
To prepare this product, pure bitumen is mixed with a suitable solvent such as kerosene or gasoline until it reaches the desired quality. The chemical properties of bitumen, in this case, cause a semi-molten state in this type of bitumen, so that it becomes a liquid and fluid state at normal temperature, with slight heating. Mixed bitumen is mainly used in different types of paving asphalts due to its high adhesion property.
- 90/15 bitumen (hard carton bitumen)
Due to the climatic characteristics in different areas, bitumen with different specifications and features is needed to insulate roofs and other places.
The two most popular types of bitumen are hard bitumen (90.15) and loose bitumen (60.70). By mixing these two types of bitumen with different percentages, the permeability and hardness of bitumen can be changed according to the climate of the region.
For example, in hot areas, harder bitumen should be used so that if the temperature rises, the bitumen will not flow and will not move. On the other hand, if the amount of hard bitumen in cold areas is more than the required amount, it will cause cracks in the bitumen during the cold hours of the day. Therefore, we conclude that the selection of hard and loose bitumen is very important and affects the quality of the insulated area.
Bitumen waterproofing feature
Bitumen is generally used to insulate roofs and bathroom floors. Usually, to stabilize the bitumen, it is used together with a thick cloth. Cloth fibers act as reinforcing bitumen and stabilize the bitumen in place. Products such as bitumen cardboard or bitumen felt also, have a similar usage to bitumen. Blockage or macadam is used to extirpate soil moisture from penetrating the floor of the building. Bitumen sealing is used for sealing the buildings’ joints and facilities, insulating the exterior surfaces of buildings, toilets, swimming pools, as well as preparing composite materials such as bitumen, sacking, and stainless paints.
Emulsion bitumen is formed by mixing bitumen, water, and emulsion materials in the refinery. Due to the chemical properties we know from bitumen and water, these two substances do not mix under normal conditions and are separated due to different densities.
Emulsifiers are usually alkaline salts of organic acids or ammonium salts that cause bitumen particles to become charged. In this way, the bitumen particles repel each other due to the induced charge and float in the water in the form of spheres with very small diameters of one hundred millimeters. Up to 50% of the volume of this product is water. One of the positive features of this type of bitumen is its reduction of pollution compared to other types of bitumen and also due to the non-flammability of its solvent (water), the risk of combustion during bitumen transfer is reduced.
After using the bitumen emulsion, the water in the mixture is extracted and evaporated, and the bitumen gradually covers the road surface or around the aggregates. This process is called emulsion break. Bitumen emulsions are categorized into three main categories based on their stability against breaking: fast breaker (unstable), slow breaker (semi-stable), and slow breaker (stable).
It is enough to spray the emulsion bitumen with a sprayer, with no heating, to the desired surface; it can wall, ceiling, roof, floor and wall of the pool, bathroom floor, etc., and then use a broom to spread it on the surface. It dries quickly and in addition to sealing the surface well, it is much cheaper than MC soluble bitumen.
Nowadays, bitumen emulsions are used in all hot and cold asphalt works, some kinds of protective asphalts, penetration and surface coating and soil stabilization, as the case may be. The applications of bitumen emulsions are as follows:
- Hot asphalt mixtures
- Cold asphalt mixtures
- Mixed asphalt in all types of emulsion bitumen
Types of emulsion bitumen and its application in asphalt:
- Protective and sealing asphalt
- One-layer surface asphalt
- Multilayer surface asphalt
- Lined sealing with stone materials
- Lined with sand
- Penetration macadam with more or less empty
- Bitumen spraying
- Surface coating without aggregate
- Penetration coating for permeable surfaces
- Surface coating
- Filling the cracks
- Immediate repairs and stain covering
Bitumen has many usages such as sealing, layers adhesive, protection against weathering and corrosion, and maintenance and repair of asphalt, concrete, and metal surfaces. For this purpose, the quality characteristics of bitumen should be improved and used for the liquid form. It is a technique that has been replaced by the production of emulsion bitumen with the introduction of water lubrication technology.
Bitumen is a material that is produced in different types by bitumen manufacturers and it is used for various applications based on its elements, hardness and softness, and quality. Here are some types of bitumen.
Petroleum bitumen: This type of bitumen is produced from distillation towers in the vacuum of oil refineries. Such bitumen is also called soft bitumen because of its special properties and degree of penetration. This bitumen is produced in a process in oil refineries and finally, a substance called asphalt remains.
Natural bitumen: This type of bitumen, as its name implies, occurs in a natural process, following the gradual conversion of crude oil and the evaporation of its volatiles over many years.
Mixed bitumen: bitumen mixed with kerosene or gasoline is called mixed bitumen. The bitumen is semi-liquid at room temperature and liquefies at very high temperatures (about 600 ° C). This bitumen is mostly used in paving street asphalts.
Blown bitumen: Blowing hot furnace air into solid bitumen gives this material a rubbery property. This bitumen has less penetration, higher softness and less sensitivity to temperature changes than pure bitumen. This bitumen is used in the production of roofing sheets and car batteries.
The bitumen concrete has high mechanical resistance and it bears pressure and traffic load. The bitumen concrete has a very good thermal resistance in thermal fluctuations day and night and throughout the year.
The bitumen concrete is commonly used to pave roads, parking lots, airports, as well as the core of earthen dams.
The bitumen concrete aggregates should have continuous granulation, in a way that the fine particles fill the spaces between the larger particles.
Granulation of stone materials and their empty have an extraordinary effect on the quality of the resulting asphalt.
After mixing the stone materials according to the workshop formula, the sand value test should be performed on bitumen concrete.
What is done in the bitumen factory?
In the first stage, light materials such as propane and gasoline are separated from crude oil. This step is performed at a pressure of atmospheric pressure.
At the second stage, heavier materials are extracted from crude oil such as kerosene and diesel. The second step is performed at a pressure close to the vacuum.
In the end, a very small mixture of solids remains. It is immersed in a substance called malt, which is similar to grease.
Major countries that are bitumen manufacturers are the following countries.
France is known as the main bitumen manufacturer. Production of this product in this country has increased from 2 tons to 3 tons per year. Other countries producing this product include Italy, China, Denmark and most of the world’s industrialized countries. Today, this product is used in the construction of most roads in all parts of the world. The emulsion bitumen is an alternative product and most countries with this technology such as France, Denmark, Italy, USA, and China have a high level of technology. The level of technology of active units in the country has the same modern level due to the use of machinery in bitumen manufacturer countries and their production method is not much different from the production method of other countries.
Bitumen is mainly obtained from the deposition of crude oil in oil refineries. Bitumen manufacturers call it the heaviest part of crude oil, which is the main material of bitumen production.
The following are the factors that directly affect the bitumen price of crude oil called “VB bitumen”:
- Fuel prices
- Crude oil prices
- Political conditions
- Exchange rate
- Demand and supply rates of bitumen in the market
- Demand rates rise during the warm season when construction increases.
- Oil and petroleum products are traded in world markets in dollars. Therefore, the dollar exchange rate has a great impact on the price of bitumen export.
- Another significant factor influencing the bitumen price is the transportation costs of bitumen export. However, the main factor affecting the price of bitumen is the world price of oil, which has a significant impact on bitumen price.
- As the price of crude oil increases, the price of its products increases too and with the decrease of crude oil price, the price of its products decreases.
Bitumen price fluctuations
Every year, due to political and economic events, the prices of various goods, including bitumen price, fluctuate in their markets, which sometimes cause a decrease and sometimes an increase in prices.
In 2018, events such as the decline in oil production in Venezuela, the withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear deal with Iran, and OPEC’s decision to reduce oil production in member countries, severely affected the bitumen export and import in the world, especially Asia.
Bitumen price fluctuations in 2018 reached their peak in recent years. So that the $ 100 difference between the lowest and highest price of bitumen in 2018 has caused analysts to have new dimensions of the impact of the bitumen market.
In 2019, global political turmoil caused more fluctuations in bitumen prices than in 2018. This year saw a Sino-US trade war that pushed up crude oil and bitumen prices.
The most important events affecting the bitumen price in 2019 were the attack on tankers in the Persian Gulf, the targeting of an American drone by Iran, the capture of a British tanker in the Persian Gulf, and the attack on the Aramco oil facility in Saudi Arabia.
Bitumen is used as insulation on various surfaces of concrete, brick, asphalt, and other building materials and shows considerable resistance to environmental parameters.
- Protection of concrete and walls buried in the soil to prevent water from penetrating the structure.
- Insulation of walls, ceilings, pools, and water tanks.
- Covering cement or metal pipes.
- Creating a protective layer against steam.
- Used as cold asphalt when mixed with suitable sand.
Bitumen wholesale large volumes help buyers to find more suitable percentages in the trade of this product. Many bitumen wholesale buyers, who work in the export sector of it, are looking to be able to have a very high return in the export sector and provide more dollars from bitumen wholesale. For this reason, the bitumen wholesale helps these intermediaries to be more profitable.
Bitumen is one of the hundreds of petroleum products, which is known as a high-value export product.
This product, which is currently exported to more than 21 foreign countries, including India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Kenya, Tanzania, Djibouti, Sudan, etc., is mostly used in road construction, asphalt, and site insulation. Of course, there are different types of bitumen and each of its grades is produced for different applications. Despite the problems in bitumen export, it still has a good position in the Middle East and around the world.
Bitumen is a vital product with various characteristics. Bitumen, which is produced from crude oil, is black and is produced in different types according to different applications. This hydrocarbon is easily soluble in carbon sulfide and carbon tetrachloride. You may have seen bitumen more in the form of liquid or hardened on the ground, while bitumen is at normal temperature and solid environment, and after heating, it first forms a paste and eventually becomes liquid.
Asia Gilsonite is the largest Gilsonite exporter, Naural Bitumen,Natural Asphalt and Gilsonite powder wholesaler from Middle East and there are more than 5 mines in its ownership.