Life Cycle Assessment of Asphalt Pavements including the Feedstock Energy and Asphalt Additives

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: Roads are assets to the society and an integral component in the development of a nation’s infrastructure. To build and maintain roads; considerable amounts of materials are required which consume quite an amount of electrical and thermal energy for production, processing and laying. The resources (materials and the sources of energy) should be utilized efficiently to avoid wastes and higher costs in terms of the currency and the environment.In order to enable quantification of the potential environmental impacts due to the construction, maintenance and disposal of roads, an open life cycle assessment (LCA) framework for asphalt pavements was developed. Emphasis was given on the calculation and allocation of energy used for the binder and the additives. Asphalt mixtures properties can be enhanced against rutting and cracking by modifying the binder with additives. Even though the immediate benefits of using additives such as polymers and waxes to modify the binder properties are rather well documented, the effects of such modification over the lifetime of a road are seldom considered. A method for calculating energy allocation in additives was suggested. The different choices regarding both the framework design and the case specific system boundaries were done in cooperation with the asphalt industry and the construction companies in order to increase the relevance and the quality of the assessment.Case-studies were performed to demonstrate the use of the LCA framework. The suggested LCA framework was demonstrated in a limited case study (A) of a typical Swedish asphalt pavement. Sensitivity analyses were also done to show the effect and the importance of the transport distances and the use of efficiently produced electricity mix. It was concluded that the asphalt production and materials transportation were the two most energy consuming processes that also emit the most GreenHouse Gases (GHG’s). The GHG’s, however, are largely depending on the fuel type and the electricity mix. It was also concluded that when progressing from LCA to its corresponding life cycle cost (LCC) the feedstock energy of the binder becomes highly relevant as the cost of the binder will be reflected in its alternative value as fuel. LCA studies can help to develop the long term perspective, linking performance to minimizing the overall energy consumption, use of resources and emissions. To demonstrate this, the newly developed open LCA framework was used for an unmodified and polymer modified asphalt pavement (Case study B). It was shown how polymer modification for improved performance affects the energy consumption and emissions during the life cycle of a road. From the case study (C) it was concluded that using bitumen with self-healing capacity can lead to a significant reduction in the GHG emissions and the energy usage.  Furthermore, it was concluded that better understanding of the binder would lead to better optimized pavement design and thereby to reduced energy consumption and emissions. Production energy limits for the wax and polymer were determined which can assist the additives manufacturers to modify their production procedures and help road authorities in setting ‘green’ limits to get a real benefit from the additives over the lifetime of a road.