Roads & Infrastructure Magazine takes a look at SAMI Bitumen Technologies’ new Kwinana binder terminal in Western Australia and what the development means for the local market.
The completion of Western Australia’s Gateway WA project in 2016 marked a number of milestones for the state. Not only was it the largest road project ever undertaken in the region, but it signified a new direction for asphalt mix specification and pavement design in the state.
In 2013, Main Roads Western Australia (MRWA) identified the need to use an improved asphalt performance specification and pavement design for the state’s new heavy duty road projects, including the Gateway Project.
The problem was that the conventional thinner asphalt layers previously used did not allow for asphalt to be laid during wet and cold weather, imposing limitations and delays on construction crews. This led to the need to utilise a full-depth asphalt technology, which was demonstrated on the project.
Since the Gateway Project, SAMI Bitumen Technologies Western Australia State Manager Scott Olsen says MRWA and the local market have embraced using harder bitumen to manufacture higher modulus asphalt to reduce the layer thickness and strengthen their pavements, including enrobé à module élevé class 2 asphalt (EME2).
“The Gateway project was the first time using C600 bitumen in Western Australia to construct a full-depth asphalt pavement and was a first real change of specification in the region, which was really innovative,” he says. “It opened the door for EME2 asphalt to become the next step in the journey.”
The state road authority and other road constructors in the region are now exploring the use of the high modulus asphalt on Western Australian roads, with MRWA even looking to explore its use on the Kwinana Freeway extension.
While demand for new EME2 asphalt mixes in Western Australia may be on the rise, Mr. Olsen says no current bitumen terminals or facilities in the region are able to manufacture EME2 bitumen on a commercial scale to meet that demand.
SAMI identified the potential for the ongoing use of EME2 in Western Australia and is aiming to meet market demand for the asphalt technology and other innovative mixes through the establishment of its new $25 million bitumen terminal in Kwinana.
Located south of Perth, the new terminal began construction in July 2017 and will eventually supersede SAMI’s existing facility in north Fremantle, which it has owned since 2002.
“We’ve basically supplied the whole Western Australian market from our Fremantle facility, which also happens to be the smallest SAMI plant in Australia and can be constrained by the tight logistical requirements of the Port of Fremantle,” Mr. Olsen says.
However, the new Kwinana site is earmarked to be the bitumen supplier’s largest site in the country – greatly increasing its capacity to service the Western Australian market with not just EME2 bitumen, but traditional bitumen, multigrade bitumen, bitumen emulsions and polymer-modified binders too.
“The Kwinana site is almost quadruple our current facility in Fremantle at 2400 square metres. Being based at Fremantle Ports’ Kwinana Bulk Jetty also means we have easy access for freight and improved ability to service the key industry,” Mr. Olsen says. “It’s a bigger processing area for SAMI and provides clients with relatively easy access.”
The new terminal site is situated next to Bitumen Storage Services – storage facilities of which SAMI is a joint venture partner. “The joint venture lets us also increase our storage capacity, with three 6300-tonne silos equal to about 18,900 tonnes making up the storage facilities,” Mr. Olsen adds.
One of the key defining features of the new terminal is its inclusion of a blowing column and oxidisation unit, which allows for commercial scale manufacture of EME2 bitumen.
“At the moment, EME2 asphalt is just moving beyond trial phases in Western Australia and this means we can start to service the market at the larger scale. Local industry and MRWA are keen for EME2 bitumen to be made available locally so that EME2 asphalt is commercially viable,” Mr. Olsen says. “Currently, SAMI is having to bring EME2 bitumen over from the east coast, which is costly and can impact negatively on the quality of the binder during transportation if handled incorrectly, he says.
The site is being delivered in two stages, which Mr. Olsen says will enable SAMI to continually supply the market while relocating elements of its Fremantle site to Kwinana.
“Mid-last year in about July, civil works started ramping on site for stage one, which enables us to start supplying products like standard bitumen, cutback with kerosene and with the installation of the blowing column and oxidisation unit, we can start producing C320, C600, EME2 and multigrade binders,” he says. “The second stage is moving the PMB and emulsion facilities from Fremantle to Kwinana. The intent is to have a greater production capacity and step up the supply to the market.”
In addition to the new binder capabilities, Mr. Olsen says SAMI’s Kwinana terminal also has a number of safety features built into the plant, as well as improved control on processing safety. He also says the site will have a smart identification system that will enable accurate and reliable binder loading into trailers.
The first stage of construction is expected to finish by the end of this year, with stage two earmarked for the third quarter of 2020.