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Bitumen

Bitumen is a petroleum-based product obtained from crude oil. By filtering and removing the light elements from the crude oil, bitumen is obtained through refining. The light elements extracted from the oil are usually naphtha, gasoline and diesel fuel. Then the bitumen remaining after distillation forms a hydrocarbon.

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The production of bitumen

Despite the fact that bitumen is a solid at standard ambient temperatures. In physics, bitumen is considered a liquid substance.

Bitumen is known for its waterproofing and adhesive properties and is often used in construction, especially for highways and there is a large supply of bitumen roofing material today.

Bitumen is produced by distillation. In this process, lighter components of crude oil, such as gasoline and diesel, are removed and the heavier bitumen remains. Deposits can also form naturally at the bottom of ancient lakes, where prehistoric organisms have decayed and been exposed to heat and pressure.

Petrochemical Applications

Bitumen market trends

The global bitumen market was USD 49.45 billion in 2020. The market is expected to grow from USD 51.69 billion in 2021 to USD 67.14 billion by 2028.

The global market is expected to grow significantly due to the rapid growth in demand in the construction industry. Especially in the areas of roofing and building new roads, bitumen is increasingly being used.

About ten percent of all bitumen made is used for roofing. Bitumen roofing membrane is increasingly used in the Netherlands given its easy installation and high quality. Eighty-five percent of all bitumen produced is used to make asphalt, this in turn eventually results in the making of new (highway) roads.

Finally, bitumen is used for sealing purposes. These can include products such as: primer, paint, coating and sealing products.

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Bitumen refining process:

These are the various steps in the refining process:

  1. Atmospheric Distillation
  2. Vacuum distillation
  3. Oxidation
  4. Blending
  5. Storage

Atmospheric Distillation

In the first step of this process the crude oil will be heated in furnace up to 350°C and subsequently guided to a distillation column were the lighter fraction (propene, butane) evaporates. The middle fractions such as naphtha, kerosene, gasoil are removed for further treatment in other refinery units. The heavy fraction, non-boiling component, remains at the bottom. 

Vacuum Distillation

In the second process step the heavy fraction is, heated up to 425°C.  To remove the last traces of the lighter fractions(gasoil), the residue is introduced again into a distillation column, here the vacuum pressure, lowers the boiling temperatures and thermal cracking of the molecules can be avoided.

Oxidation

The bitumen will be further processed in an oxidator reactor, by blowing air through it at elevated temperatures (280°C).

The process of oxidation increases the stiffness and softening point of the bitumen. 

Blending

Often all kind of qualities bitumen are being blended to the technical specification required by the end user. These products are mainly used for road construction, roofing, pavements, reservoirs coatings. Bitumen is kept in large storage stanks (Carbon Steel) with capacities ranging from 100.000-1.000.000 liters. 

The assumed viscosity of these blends is in the range of 200-3000 cP, depending on the temperature. The purpose of the mixer is to mix several highly viscous liquids, sometimes having almost the character of a solid. Given the tank geometry either a top entry mixer type N is required, whilst the Jongia’s side entry mixer type RWM will be selected for the large volumes. 

The mixer type RWM is designed with two heavy duty bearing sections to absorb the power and vibration created during the mixing process. The modified marine type propeller, up to diameters of 850 mm, is creating a maximum forward flow resulting in turnover (cycle) times of 6-12 hours.

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