An environmental initiative designed to measure the “cradle to grave” CO2 emissions generated in asphalt production is coming to Ontario, with a potential rollout across the country.
Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for asphalt mixtures document the various “ingredients” that have gone into the mix design such as aggregate size, the mix design method, the performance grade of the binder and the temperatures used to produce it.
“They’re similar to the nutritional labels found on every food package,” Corfinium Solutions Inc. principal Donn Bernal told members of the Ontario Asphalt Pavement Council (OAPC) at the its recent fall seminar in Mississauga.
EPDs are a worldwide program for manufacturers and comply with ISO and other standards.
They’re already in place for asphalt producers in the United States through the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) and some states are including EPDs as requirements in bidding and contract documents, he said.
“EPDs are coming to Ontario and Canada,” said Bernal, who told the audience the OAPC has been working with NAPA and the National Research Council for the past several months to bring a Canadian equivalent to Ontario.
He predicted it will be implemented in the province by the end of 2024.
“OAPC is taking the lead in this,” said Bernal in an interview after the seminar.
Implementing the system should be fairly straightforward as the council could adopt the NAPA’s Emerald Eco-Label EPD Program which allows owners, agencies and contractors to share “quantifiable metrics of sustainability and environmental impact.”
But that adoption would require some fine tuning. For the most part, Ontario consumes nuclear and hydro power, while there are many jurisdictions in the United States that rely on coal power which is more energy-consuming and generates CO2 emissions, he said.
A former OAPC president in its previous life as the Ontario Hot Mix Producers’ Association, Bernal focused on EPDs about the mid-point of his seminar, which was titled Sustainability in Asphalt and Environmental Social Governance.
As a sort of a lead-in into the section on EPDs, Bernal said there are still many steps the asphalt industry can and should take to lessen its environmental footprint.
“What are we doing and what can we do better?”
That journey starts with an examination of the ingredients of an asphalt mixture: the aggregates, the asphalt cement and construction and paving practices, he said.
Some of the factors to be considered include the material extraction process, the distances involved in transporting materials to the asphalt plant, the mix design, and improved production procedures including ones to reduce moisture, such as covering RAP (reclaimed asphalt pavement) storage areas.
“Reduced moisture content also improves the production rate,” said Bernal, noting while on a recent trip to Quebec he noticed most RAP stockpiles were covered.
Other measures include using more efficient equipment, the adoption of innovation technologies such as intelligent compaction, plus the use of solar, wind and hydrogen power and other renewable systems, “which are now becoming mainstream.”
“Warm mix asphalt is a technology that has been proven to work,” said Bernal, citing the lower asphalt plant temperatures needed to produce it compared to hot mix asphalt, with the incurring benefits of lower C02 emissions and reduced operating costs. The process also improves life expectancy of the asphalt mix.
Pointing to New Brunswick where that province’s department of transportation and infrastructure now uses 100 per cent warm mix asphalt for provincial capital work projects, Bernal asked why Ontario couldn’t make the same leap.
New Brunswick’s experience with warm mix asphalt was highlighted at OAPC’s 2020 virtual fall seminar.
As the seminar title also included the phrase environmental and social governance, he pointed out many associations and asphalt companies are heavily invested in skilled trades development programs, promoting great opportunities for women in the industry, implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives, and engaging in community relations.
He also urged the industry to be guided by the principles of social equity and environmentalism and not just by a focus on making profit.
“It (the business) can’t just be a matter of dollars and cents.”