Business & Policy
Asphalt sealant could offer new markets for Canadian oilseed growers
By Lilian Schaer
October 18, 2012, Guelph, ON - A green asphalt sealant made with vegetable oils is being used in Guelph in hopes of opening up new markets for Canadian soybean farmers. RePLAY has been applied to the paved parking lot of the Ontario AgriCentre, an office building in the south end of the city, to demonstrate its effectiveness in the Canadian climate.
The product is a soybean oil-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. The petroleum-based ingredients found in traditional asphalt preservation products are replaced with soybean oils, making the product both environmentally friendly and a possible new bioproduct opportunity for farmers.
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 Bob Jamieson, president of Surface Green Solutions, the Listowel-based company marketing the product in Ontario.
"Asphalt will break down over time, becoming oxidized, grey and cracked, but this product will revitalize it, sinking up to an inch-and-a-quarter into the surface, which bonds its elements and prevents further breakdown," he explained at a recent demonstration event in Guelph organized by Soy 20/20 and Grain Farmers of Ontario. "The result can be up to 15 years of additional life for asphalt surfaces, and significant long-term cost savings."
It's the product's cost-saving potential that Jamieson and Rob Roe, Director of Bioproduct Commercialization with Soy 20/20, an organization that develops and promotes new markets for Canadian soybeans, are hoping will be attractive to cash-strapped municipalities who are under pressure to maintain existing transportation infrastructure as well as keep pace with growth. Jamieson estimates it costs an average of $13,000 per kilometre to apply the product, whereas repaving costs come in at about $200,000 per kilometre.
There are other benefits too. 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. 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.
"If RePLAY catches on, it has the potential to expand soybean processing activities and spin-off businesses here in Ontario and open up some new opportunities for growers," said Roe. Part of Soy 20/20's goal is to help create demand for the product so that RePLAY, currently made in the U.S. and imported into Canada, could be produced domestically using locally grown soybeans.
It is estimated that a one kilometre application of the sealant uses approximately 36 bushels of soybeans. One acre of land in Ontario produces approximately 40 bushels of soybeans, and there are approximately 16,000 kilometres of road in Ontario, resulting in a potential need of 576,000 bushels of soybeans or production from 14,400 acres.
"Our strategy is to help drive the demand for the product so that you'll get to a volume where it's feasible to bring the production of the product to Ontario," he added. "If we get the volume high enough it will make a lot more sense to use locally produced soybeans that are processed here in Ontario."
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 U.S, the product is currently in use in at least 30 states. Closer to home, the product is being used in western Canada, particularly in Edmonton, where both the city and local school boards have embraced the product.
In Ontario, however, uptake has been slower, says Jamieson. There are currently three sections of road where the product is being demonstrated: one kilometer on Grey County Road 3 near the junction of Highway 21 in the Owen Sound area, one kilometer on Lambton County Road 79 north of Arkona and a two kilometer single lane application on Perth County Road 86 east of Listowel.
"They are looking to develop their market for it, so we are working with them on the commercial side," Roe said of Surface Green Solutions. "You have to demonstrate, you have to give the product some exposure, and awareness in order to encourage uptake."
Soy 20/20 is also involved in developing other potential bioproduct markets for soybean growers, including lubricants and hydraulic fluids, as part of its market development strategy for Canadian soybeans.