Can soybeans be the solution to potholes?
Imagine a world where pavement doesn’t disintegrate and potholes don’t exist. Imagine a product that can reduce the negative environmental impact of asphalt, cut costs for cash-strapped municipalities and offer new market opportunities for farmers. Some might consider this a utopian dream, but thanks to a new asphalt preservation product, this dream could soon be a reality.
RePLAY™ is a soy and canola-based pavement preservation agent that extends the life of existing asphalt surfaces, like roads and parking lots, by protecting them from the freezing and thawing cycles of Canada’s harsh winters. Asphalt oxidizes and wears out due to the oxygen in the air and the small cracks that form in the asphalt fill with water, which freezes in the winter, causing larger cracks and potholes. RePLAY™ prevents this from happening, says its Canadian distributor, while still maintaining skid resistance.
“In our colder temperatures we have freeze-thaw cycles where water penetrates into asphalt and freezes, causing road damage,” explains Gordon Oliver, CEO of Bio Protection Solutions, the Edmonton-based company that owns distribution rights for RePLAY™ and related soy-based bio-products. “What this product does is seal the voids in the asphalt, preventing water from penetrating and thus protecting it from damage. RePLAY™ penetrates deep into the asphalt, which is why it has a statistically insignificant effect on the skid resistance of the asphalt surface.”
In RePLAY™, the petroleum-based ingredients that make up traditional road preservation products are replaced with soybean and canola oils and the resulting product is one that has the potential to drastically extend the regular life span of asphalt surfaces due to its superior sealing abilities.
“If you maintain a road and keep it sealed, you are basically creating a perpetual surface,” says Oliver. “Traditional asphalt surfaces last an average of 10-12 years, but with RePLAY™, you can extent their life almost indefinitely because you’re not constantly fixing potholes or repaving.”
That’s good news for consumers tired of road closures due to construction and cash-strapped municipalities who are under pressure to maintain existing transportation infrastructure as well as keep pace with growth. RePLAY™ cures at surface level in 15-30 minutes after application, which means that roads can re-open to traffic very quickly, and while it continues to cure into voids over the course of several weeks, it won’t track residues after about half an hour. By comparison, says Oliver, traditional petroleum-based products keep roads closed much longer, track oil residues and potentially allow for runoff into storm drains if it rains shortly after application.
The City of Edmonton is completing some trials with RePLAY™ on some of its residential streets and based on the positive feedback from city officials, Bio Protection Solutions is anticipating wider use of its product. School boards in Edmonton have also been using the product to protect their roads and parking lots.
“We are just coming out of a testing phase with RePLAY™ in Edmonton and the feedback has been very, very positive,” says Oliver. “In spring 2008, the city had a neighborhood where a new road was built and paved which then failed inspection. The asphalt company would have had to rip it up and start again but they managed to convince the city to apply RePLAY™. Once it was applied, the city inspector passed the asphalt.”
The cost to apply RePLAY™ is approximately $1 – $2 per square metre depending on the age of the asphalt, estimates Oliver. By comparison, traditional asphalt sealers range from $1.50 – $2.50 per square metre, although this price can fluctuate with the price of oil and because they are surface treatments only – they do not penetrate into the asphalt the way RePLAY™ does – they do not last as long, resulting in more frequent applications.
RePLAY™ is manufactured in the United States by BioSpan Technologies Inc. It was invented by company president and CEO Sheldon Chesky, a leading US soybean and soybean oil researcher, with funding provided by the United Soybean Board. Chesky has also developed other soy-based products that will help make roads more environmentally friendly, including asphalt removers and release agents that can be used to clean paving equipment and truck beds.
Currently, RePLAY™ is manufactured in the United States, using US-sourced soybeans but Oliver says he would like to source the raw materials in Canada and also look at Canadian manufacturing once the market develops enough for it to make sense from a volume perspective. That’s the kind of long term thinking that Soy 20/20 President Jeff Schmalz likes to hear. The Guelph-based organization is dedicated to increasing market opportunities for soybean farmers, particularly through facilitating new uses.
“Soy 20/20’s priority is to encourage new market opportunities for Canadian soybeans, and we need to think of soybeans as more than just a commodity crop as we traditionally have,” says Schmalz. “The soybeans that our farmers produce can benefit all of society. Products like these can have long term, beneficial impacts on our environment, the financial health of our municipalities and the viability of our farms.”
To date, RePLAY™ has been applied to asphalt surfaces – pavement, parking lots, trails, and runways – from Omaha, Nebraska to Bangalore, India and many points in between. In the US, the product is currently in use in 30 states. For Gordon Oliver and Bio Protection Solutions, the next steps include expanding the Canadian market across the country by actively seeking distributors in every province.
“We believe in these products to preserve our infrastructure,” Oliver says. “Governments have spent a lot of money building it; we should spend some money to preserve it as well.”