The Definitive Guide to Bitumen Trade in UAE

Introduction

Bitumen, a sticky, viscous compound derived from petroleum, plays an important part in the current infrastructure, mainly in pavement building. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country that is seeing many ambitious development projects completed right now, is in need of premium quality bitumen more than ever. This guide offers detailed coverage of the types of bitumen, their properties, methods of tests, and the sophisticated world of bitumen trading in the UAE.

Bitumen Types and Grades

The knowledge of Bitumen 60/70 and 40/60 is important. Bitumen being classified on the basis of penetration value indicates the hardness or the softness of it. The number specified in the grade refers to the depth (in units of 1/10th of a millimetre) that a standard needle will penetrate a sample of bitumen under certain parameters of temperature, stress and time.

Asphalt 60-70 is frequently applied, especially for the top layer of a road system. It has a localization value of about 60 to 70, making it appropriate for mild to warm seasons. Such a grade offers a proper balance of flexibility and rigidity; it ensures that the road surface is capable of withstanding traffic and weather variations.

Bitumen 40/60, in turn, is mainly applied to the base and binder courses (that is, the underlying layers of the road). We are talking about a lower penetration value (40-60). This means that the material is harder and more viscous, which are the characteristics that we would expect for heavier loads and high-traffic volumes.

Viscosity, being a measure of film thickness, is perhaps the main difference between the two grades of film. Bitumen 40/60 is characterized by a higher viscosity that allows it to better resist the movement of heavy loads, and Bitumen 60/70 has a lower viscosity that ensures good workability during design and construction.

PropertyBitumen 60/70Bitumen 40/60
Penetration Value (1/10 mm)60 – 7040 – 60
Primary UseWearing coursesBase and binder courses
ViscosityLowerHigher
FlexibilityHigherLower
Load-bearing CapacityModerateHigh

Oxidized bitumen, otherwise known as blown bitumen or oxidized asphalt, is a type of asphalt that has been subjected to oxidation, which is a controlled process. This process involves heating the bitumen under the air blow, resulting in a chemical reaction that changes its nature.

An oxidation process increases bitumen’s softening point, which is important for applications wherein resistance to high temperatures and improved weathering effects are needed. Bitumen that has been exposed to air is also used for roofing, waterproofing membranes, and specialized asphalt paving.

Compared to standard paving bitumen grades like 60/70 and 40/60, oxidized bitumen offers several advantages:

  • Increased Thermal Stability: Oxidized asphalt has the ability to carry and hold higher temperatures without getting extremely soft or losing its characteristics.
  • Enhanced Weathering Resistance: Oxidation provides the bitumen with resistance against ageing and degradation by the reaction of elements like sun, water, and oxygen.
  • Improved Adhesion: The oxidation of bitumen results in better adhesion to many types of surfaces, and hence, it can be used to waterproof and roof buildings.

Besides oxidized bitumen, the oxidation reaction of bitumen would not apply to standard road construction. However, the oxidization of bitumen would find its applications in specialized construction projects where high heat resistance and durability are paramount.

In addition to the widely used 60/70 and 40/60 grades, there are several other bitumen types and grades available in the market, each suited for specific applications: 

  • 80/100: A milder blend suitable for cold regions or to create a textured appearance.
  • Polymer-Modified Bitumen (PMB): Moderate bitumen is a polymer modified for greater properties such as elasticity, rutting resistance, and fatigue life.
  • Cutback Bitumen: Pitch-based diluted with solvents to make them workable in low temperatures or prime coatings.
  • Emulsion Bitumen: Bitumen blended with water and emulsifiers, which are used for making tack coats, surface dressings, cold mixes, etc.

The kind of bitumen used and its grade depend on climate, traffic volume, road construction, and project specifications.

Bitumen Properties and Testing

The significance of bitumen viscosity

The amount of bitumen flowing is controlled by its viscosity, which changes according to the temperature. It stands right at the point of the workability, pumpability, and compaction features of the bitumen during its construction and service.

Factors affecting bitumen viscosity include: 

  • Temperature: Bitumen becomes thinner with the temperature rise, and it becomes very thick when the temperature decreases.
  • Composition: Bitumen is a mixture of compounds with relatively high concentrations of asphaltenes and maltenes. 
  • Shear Rate: Bitumen can be deformed under either flow or shear stress at different rates, which ultimately results in the change of the apparent viscosity.

The viscosity of the liquid is measured with rotational and capillary viscometers, the two instruments which impose flow by applying a specific force. The provision of the right viscosity range is critical to the perfect mixing, pumping and compaction of roads during construction of roads.

We can see an example in hot-mix asphalt manufacturing, where bitumen temperature is the right viscosity to ensure good coating and be high enough to allow drainage during transportation and paving.

In addition to viscosity, several other properties are evaluated to ensure the quality and performance of bitumen:

  • Penetration Testing: The test here determines the penetration of a specific needle at a load and temperature after a predetermined time into bitumen. The depth of the penetration is measured by the unit of 1/10mm.
  • Softening Point: The softening temperature is a thermometer, which indicates bitumen softening to the point when a standard ball can move through it under the specified conditions. The property of this one material must be assessed to evaluate its resistance to creep at elevated temperatures above 150° C.
  • Ductility: Toughness, which is the degree to which the bitumen sample of standard stretches without breaking under some temperature and pulling rate, is also a key factor. It manifests that bitumen is non-stretchy and non-brittle, which is the basis for its widespread use as a waterproof material.
  • Specific Gravity: The specific gravity ratio of bitumen is the ratio of the density values of bitumen to the density of water at a particular temperature. This very functionality is the major one when considering the volumes, weights, and other engineering features.
  • Ageing Characteristics: Besides the RTF and PAV, some of the most popular age-hardening tests that are used to examine the resilience of bitumen to age-hardening are used.

In this regard, implementing those requirements to the specifications is essential because the bitumen is endowed with the capacity to be suitable for a wide range of applications.

Meeting Bitumen Specifications

Bitumen, which is used in projects, must be in line with the standards and specifications to guarantee unfailing quality and performance. Some commonly followed specifications include:

  • ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials): This standard is typical for bitumen grades used for paving and industrial applications.
  • AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials): The AASHTO M320 highlights the specification for performance-graded asphalt binders.
  • EN (European Standards): EN 12591 is concerned with the specifications for bitumen used on paved roads, covering such aspects as penetration, the softening point, and other properties.

Not complying with the set standards can result in early pavement failure, increase the costs of maintenance, and maybe a source of danger. Verifiable bituminous vendors and traders in UAE have the core mandate to stick to these guidelines in order to maintain the quality of their products in line with the set specifications.

Bitumen Trade in UAE

The UAE plays a leading role as a bitumen trading centre, and many of the major traders and suppliers in the region operate there. These enterprises are an integral part of the supply chain in that they perform functions involving the acquisition, importation, storage and distribution of bitumen to cater to the needs of the construction industry.

Cooperating with respectable bitumen dealers can be of benefit to construction enterprises and their buyers, for those dealers have developed links with suppliers, deep knowledge about the market, and the ability to get favourable prices and terms.

Producing bitumen in the UAE locally is not possible, so it is typically imported from other countries to meet the region’s needs. Bitumen is often extracted in the regions of these big producers like Saudi Arabia, Iran, India, and so many other nations in Europe.

The supply chain for importing bitumen to the UAE involves several stages:

Sourcing and Procurement: Traders of bitumen recognize and negotiate contracts with reliable suppliers of various regions based on the quality of products, market situation, and prices.

Transportation: It is the source’s location that makes the choice of the mode of transportation to the United Arab Emirates necessary: air, sea and rail are the three main ways.

  • Truck: Overland transportation to neighbouring countries like Saudi Arabia has been more costly than sea transportation.
  • Rail: Some of the bitumen is normally exported by train afterwards and then loaded onto trucks or ships.
  • Ship: Bitumen for long-distance maritime shipment is shipped in specialized tankers or containers.

Storage and Distribution: Initially, before use, it is heated and stored in temperature-controlled plants to keep the properties of bitumen. The processing plants are equipped with modern technology devices and constructions for the loading, unloading, and transportation of bitumen.

The logistics of bitumen trading play an essential role when traders of oil are in the process of timely delivery, as they have to manage the supply chain and trading process very complexly.

For construction companies, contractors, and other end-users in the UAE, purchasing bitumen directly from traders can offer several advantages:

  • Quality Assurance: As for trustworthy trading companies, we can count on them to buy from authentic suppliers and control the quality themselves to make sure the specifications are followed.
  • Competitive Pricing: The consumers, the buyers, have strong bargaining power and access to information, and hence, they are able to hammer down the prices with suppliers. Finally, the price can be passed on to the product’s users.
  • Reliable Supply: Traders pursue balance at the stock level and form a network of business contacts to ensure that the oil supply is plentiful and continuous.
  • Technical Support: More often than not, professional slip streamers give consumers advice on the right product selection and instructions on installing and using it properly.

When sourcing bitumen as an end-user, it is essential to consider factors such as: 

  • The trader’s reputation and past track record play a crucial role in the broker selection of a forex trader.
  • The presentation includes the needed specifications and standards.
  • Air, ships, MRO (Maintenance, Repair, Operation), and logistics support.
  • Technical expertise and excellent customer service are essential components of any business that ensure its success.

The main player in this industry is bitumen. Also, the fact that this is a continuous process brings up new research, studies, and analyses that determine whether the process is sustainable and efficient. Here are some expert insights into the latest trends and innovations in bitumen technology:

1. Warm Mix Asphalt (WMA): The WMA technologies are engineered in such a manner that they provide asphalt mixes at lower temperatures compared to the hot-mix asphalt temperatures. Consequently, it helps cut down on energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and improve workability and compaction, all of which, in turn, results in better-quality pavement. WMA is progressively regarded as an essential step in the UAE as well as in other countries due to the plethora of ecological and business benefits it delivers.

2. Recycled Asphalt Pavement (RAP): The principal method for paving (RAP), which includes the reclaimed asphalt from old pavements in new asphalt mixtures, is going to be applied more often. This not only helps cut down the production of new bitumen but also provides a sustainable place through reusing natural resources. The advanced processing and mixing methods for RAP, which can be tailored to improve the performance of the new mixes or to expand the amount of RAP in new mixes, are currently a subject of many researchers.

3. Bio-based Bitumen Modifiers: Researchers are working on developing bio-based materials from utilized cooking oils of fruits and vegetables to be used in asphalt binders. These additives enhance properties like elasticity, ageing resistance and superiority in low-temperature applications; plus, they contribute to the development of a circular economy and the substitution of petroleum-based products.

4. Nanotechnology in Bitumen: Nanomaterials, for instance, nano-silica, carbon nanotubes and nano clays are typically used in asphalt with the purpose of reducing moisture and improving mechanical and ageing properties. Besides these successes, making this technology affordable and increasing its production are the real challenges.

Conclusion

Bitumen is a significant construction material, and its different varieties, properties, and market features heavily influence how infrastructure projects run successfully. By forming an alliance with a bitumen trader of good repute and partnering with a bitumen supplier, construction companies and end-users will be able to access high-quality bitumen that complies with stringent specifications. This will be beneficial to them as they will be served by reliable supply chains, competitive pricing, and expert technical support.

As UAE keeps its efforts on infrastructural development, the forex for bitumen is envisaged to last and be regarded as the leading one in the region.

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