Onshore bitumen with SAMI

The new bitumen processing plant in Kwinana.

Sebastien Chatard, SAMI Bitumen Technologies General Manager, speaks with Road & Infrastructure about a resurgence in onshore manufacturing as SAMI opens its new bitumen terminal.

Manufacturing’s share of the Australian economy has been declining for decades. That said, according to Western Australian members of parliament, SAMI Bitumen Technologies’ advanced new bitumen terminal is going to help grow onshore manufacturing in the state.

When WA passed the Infrastructure Western Australia Act 2019 in July, significant potential opened up for the state’s infrastructure and civil works sector.

The importance of future proofing the state is well understood by SAMI, which opened a new import and bitumen processing plant in Kwinana, Perth in November.

The facility’s opening was attended by Roger Cook, WA Deputy Premier, and Rita Saffioti, WA Transport and Planning Minister. Sebastien Chatard, SAMI General Manager, said that material produced at the facility would help improve the durability and longevity of pavements across the state.

Additionally, he said the facility’s state-of-the-art technology will help reduce the amount of natural resources required to build and maintain heavy trafficked roads. By installing a blowing column to produce EME2 bitumen, which SAMI has, material consumption requirements are reduced and maintenance costs minimised, he said.

“Bringing the latest bitumen processing technology to Western Australia, SAMI Bitumen’s new manufacturing facility in Kwinana will produce high-performance bitumen in Perth for the first time,” Mr. Chatard said.

At a networking function held after the terminals opening, Deputy Premier Roger Cook called the facility an “excellent development for Western Australia”. He added that the bitumen plant would bring much-needed jobs to the state’s critical manufacturing industry.

“Having a global company like COLAS invest for the long-term shows the confidence it has in the state’s future,” he said.

The opening events ran from noon to late in the evening, with lunch at the Boat Shed restaurant, followed by an official opening ceremony and tour of the new facility.

Frédéric Gardès, Global CEO of SAMI’s ultimate parent company COLAS Group, attended the opening. Mr. Gardès and Ms. Saffioti marked the occasion with a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

Following this, the Transport and Planning Minister suggested that SAMI’s investment in Perth would allow the state to continue manufacturing the integral material required for the government’s road delivery plans.

“What is manufactured at this plant will become the foundations of WA’s growth, being used to construct roads that are the veins and arteries of our economy,” Ms. Saffioti said.

The day was capped off with networking, cocktails and canapes at the Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle.

Speaking to Roads & Infrastructure, Mr. Chatard said all attendees were in high spirits, excited by the future infrastructure opportunities presented by the terminal.

“Bitumen processing at this scale will provide huge benefit to WA. With its growing population and ageing infrastructure, road network investment is now more important than ever,” he says.

Rita Saffioti and Frèdèric Gardès opening the facility.

Of the import facility itself, Mr. Chatard says it’s SAMI’s largest in Australia, and will replace SAMI’s Fremantle operations and BP’s Kwinana oil refinery.

Mr. Chatard says Main Roads Western Australia has, in recent years, identified a need to use improved asphalt performance applications and pavement design in the state’s heavy-duty road projects.

“At SAMI we strive to develop, innovate and improve. Main Roads wants the best possible outcomes, as we can expect from a customer of that size, but they are also willing to try new innovations,” he says.

“The terminal represents decisive progress for the state’s road construction industry, with bitumen from Kwinana to be laid on thousands of kilometres of new roads, improving transportation links across WA.”

Now that the facility is operational, bitumen will be imported by ship, off loaded at the Kwinana wharf and pumped via a heated pipeline into three 6700-tonne holding tanks.

“At the new facility, SAMI will produce hard-grade binders and EME2 bitumen using the new blowing column at the terminal,” he says.

“The blowing column will allow us to manufacture EME2 at a commercial scale for the long-term, which is important for our company in the context of WA’s anticipated infrastructure boom.”

Mr. Chatard says the blowing column and subsequent EME2 technology allows pavement design engineers to reduce the thickness of the structural asphalt layer by up to 30 per cent. This, he says, is an economically beneficial development, particularly when dealing with large material quantities.

With the blowing column, Mr. Chatard says  base bitumen properties are enhanced through air rectified to produce a binder that is less susceptible to low-temperature cracking and high-temperature rutting under traffic.

“It is always a partnership between SAMI and it’s customers, and it is through this partnership with Main Roads Western Australia that we will carry on supporting the economic development of this amazing region,” he says.

“The COLAS Group is backing us up with its global network and powerful R&D, to provide our stakeholders and customers with the support necessary to build the best road projects together.”


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