Bitumen and asphalt have undergone a rebirth, moving from rather low-cost, mundane commodities to high-tech construction materials. At the same time, demand has risen sharply. The combination of a product in high demand and stringent quality criteria means that traders active in this space require effective risk management tools on each cargo. Rewards are potentially good, although even minor problems can prove costly.
SGS offers a comprehensive suite of services in the asphalt and bitumen sector including sampling, trade inspection, analysis and cargo treatment.
Issues within the asphalt and bitumen sector
The most significant issues facing any actor in the supply chain in this sector are:
- Effective sampling
- Sample handling
- The multiplicity of grades established. Grades tend to be locally determined and are not used by any foreign refineries. This poses the single largest challenge to trade in this sector
- Testing. The many grades, combined with typically low volumes and the fact that a number of important tests are not in most cases international, but local, makes it difficult to establish conformance with known standards
- Measurement. The quantification of bitumen is, in a manner similar to the quality grades, terribly fragmented. Local custom and practise is often to simply weigh out on weighbridges that are of questionable veracity or prone to external influences such as very poor weather, earthquakes and electrical power fluctuations. The fact that asphalts tend to be an intermodal cargo also makes it difficult to make accurate measurement along the supply chain. Bulk, drums, ISO tank, rail and road tank cargoes can all be found bumping up against one another in a single supply chain
Asphalt and bitumen testing from SGS
There are many national and international specifications and tests stipulated by various authorities, contracts and building regulations around the world. At SGS we try to offer as many as we can, while accepting that we cannot offer all things to all of our stakeholders everywhere, given the limited volumes per location. We offer:
- Analysis of commercial bulk cargoes to ASTM, ISO, EN and similar specifications
- Analysis of the basic performance characteristics such as:
- Penetration numbers
- Needle penetration
- Cone penetration
- Melting point
- Storage monitoring to assess oxidation state
- Testing of drummed bitumen over time to asses batch lifetime
All SGS testing laboratories participate in an international proficiency test scheme for bitumen. These round robin tests act as a performance indicator and help to maintain a consistently high level of quality and assurance from our labs.
SGS trade inspections of oil, gas and chemical cargoes are carried out on the basis of accepted petroleum and petrochemical standards such as ASTM, GOST, API, MPMS, UOP, IP or EN testing methods and specifications as set out by ISO, CEN or national and regional standards-setting organisations.
SGS belongs to several key industry organisations and working groups, such as those within ASTM, ISO, CEN, EI (The Energy Institute, the former Institute of Petroleum) and IFIA. Where required by contract specifications, we can use both customised analytical methods and those supplied by our clients. If necessary, we can also help customers choose the most appropriate standards to use and/or cite in order to support risk management within transactions. Our technical support team is always available to give advice on the standards, working practices and technologies being used.
Learn more about asphalt and bitumen testing from SGS.