Fuel-Use Savings With Warm Mix Documented

NCAT has presented research showing that warm-mix asphalt may reduce plant fuel use more than was previously realized due to reduced drum casing losses in addition to lower mix temperatures. “The project’s findings surprised many,” said Howard Marks, NAPA Vice President for Environmental Affairs, who attended the NCHRP 9-47A Panel meeting in early May where the results were presented. “Plant burner fuel consumption was reduced by as much as 20 percent for a 50°F reduction in temperature when using warm-mix technologies.”

For the “Properties and Performance of Warm-Mix Asphalt Technologies” panel, NCAT reported that in terms of actual field performance, there were no differences between pavement sections using warm-mix technologies and conventional hot-mix designs. Although some lab tests indicate a greater potential for moisture damage with WMA compared to HMA, NCAT has found no performance problems in its field projects. “The field performance of WMA has been excellent, even in heavy traffic and tough climates. We need to take these lab tests with a grain of salt and realize that the lab conditions or criteria are not perfect and need to be adjusted based on the field truth,” said NCAT Director Randy West.

Looking at the environmental aspects of the findings, Marks said: “What we’ve always intuitively known has been documented. Warm-mix technologies result in almost no worker exposure to asphalt fumes, and the fuel savings from using warm mix observed by NCAT were truly phenomenal.”

There was some discussion as to whether the fuel-savings findings were representative, but the study was designed to quantify the impacts of dropping mix temperature on burner fuel consumption, taking into account other variables that have an impact on aggregate drying. “All things being equal, including mix design, aggregate moisture, drum insulation, and burner tuning, NCAT’s findings seem to indicate plants can reduce drying costs associated with the burner by as much as 20 percent just by lowering mix temperature 50 degrees,” Marks said.

(source: NAPA Action News)

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