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What is Bitumen

What is Bitumen



Modern industry started in 1712’s bitumen can be attributed to the stones discovered bitumen in France. Tarry material is then simple to form lumps that were broadcast on the local roads. This technique was quite successful and work in progress in a short time, as a powder and heating the material before use respectively.

Bitumen is the oldest known engineering material and has been used from the earliest times as an adhesive, sealant and waterproofing agent. As long ago as 6000BC the thriving ship-building industry in Sumeria used naturally occurring bitumen, found in surface seepage in the area.

What is


Bitumen is a black to dark brown sticky material, composed principally of high molecular weight hydrocarbons. It is a semi-solid hydrocarbon product of crude oil distillation, which is produced by removing the lighter fractions (such as liquid petroleum gas, petrol, and diesel) from heavy crude oil during the refining process. The physical properties of bitumen include adhesion, resistance to water, hardness, ductility, and higher softening point.

Bitumen, commonly known as tar, is a thick, black, sticky material. Refined bitumen is the bottom fraction obtained by the fractional distillation of crude oil. This means that the boiling point of bitumen is very high, so it does not rise in the distillation chamber. The boiling point of bitumen is 977° Fahrenheit. Bitumen is used in paving roads and waterproofing roofs and boats. Bitumen is also made into thin plates and used to soundproof dishwashers and hard drives in computers.

The penetration grade bitumen is refinery bitumen that is manufactured at different viscosities. The penetration test is carried out to characterize the bitumen, based on the hardness. Thus, it has the name penetration bitumen.

Refining Process

In the early days of the oil industry, the methods for refining oil were very different from the methods we use today. Horizontal cylindrical stills that only held 5 to 6 barrels of oil at a time. Using the stills, refiners were able to raise the temperature of the oil very slowly. As the temperature rose, they removed the distillates like gasoline for which they had no use, procuring only the lamp oil or kerosene. Over time, oil’s other distillates became useful and the refining process evolved.

Once it enters the modern refinery, crude oil goes through a process called fractional distillation . This process separates the different components of crude oil so that they can be further refined. Fractional distillation begins when the crude oil, which is a mixture of different hydrocarbons, is put into a high-pressure steam boiler. This is a tank that makes the oil boil and turn to vapor, much like boiling water turns into water vapor. The crude oil is heated to temperatures up to 1112° Fahrenheit.

After the oil becomes vapor, it enters the bottom of the distillation column through a pipe. The distillation column is a tall tank that contains many plates or trays. The vapor rises in the column, cooling as it rises. The specific vapors cool at their boiling points and condense on the plates or trays in the column. Much like water condensation on the outside of a cold glass, the vapors turn into liquid fractions as they condense. The liquid fractions flow through pipes and are collected in separate tanks. The fractions include gases, naphtha, gasoline, kerosene, diesel fuel, lubricating oils, heavy oils, and other materials.

Today, pipelines, railroads, tankers, and trucks transport crude oil to refineries where it is transformed into the products we use every day. Oil refineries seem like they would be dirty places, but most governments have placed restrictions on how refineries dispose of waste products and what they can emit into the air. There are many environmental programs that have made oil refining a safer, cleaner industry.

Bitumen Applications

There are many bitumen and bituminous products but typically they go into applications such as roofing, damp proofing, waterproofing, paints, car parks, road, runways, fence treatments and so on.

The vast majority of refined bitumen is used in construction: primarily as a constituent of products used in paving and roofing applications. According to the requirements of the end use bitumen is produced to specification. This is achieved either by the refining process or blending.

It is estimated that the current world use of bitumen is approximately 102 million tonnes per year. Approximately 85% of all the bitumen produced is used as the binder in asphalt for roads.

Although the manufactured bitumen are of high quality today, the basics of their use are, as in the past, essentially like sealing, adhesion and protective coatings. Today, more than 250 different applications for bitumen in agriculture, construction, industry, road construction and many more are considered. In this section, we use bitumen for different uses.

Bitumen is applied in construction and maintenance of

  • Highways,
  • Airport runways,
  • Footways / Pedestrian Ways,
  • Car parks, Race tracks,
  • Tennis courts, Roofing,
  • Damp proofing,
  • Dams Reservoir and pool linings,
  • Sound proofing,
  • Pipe coatings,
  • Cable Coatings,
  • Paints, Building WaterProofing,
  • Tile underlying waterproofing,
  • Newspaper Ink Production,
  • and many other applications

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