Decarbonising Raw Materials
Leading the way with UK’s first biogenic asphalt
Shell partnered with Aggregate Industries, the UK based subsidiary of Holcim Group, to launch the UK’s first commercially available biogenic asphalt.
Construction provides the foundation for daily life; from the buildings we inhabit to the road networks that connect us together. Given its vital role in enabling social and economic progress, the industry needs to collaborate on new low carbon solutions to accelerate action on decarbonisation. In late 2021 Shell partnered with Aggregate Industries, a subsidiary of Holcim Group, to capture emissions from roadbuilding by producing the UK’s first commercially available biogenic asphalt.
Shared ambitions to decarbonise the UK’s roads
With over 200 sites and around 3,700 dedicated employees, Aggregate Industries is home to everything from aggregates, asphalt, ready-mixed concrete, and precast concrete products. Based in the UK, it has grown to have a significant regional footprint, operating over 60 quarries in the UK and has several bases throughout mainland Europe and Scandinavia.
Shell and Aggregate Industries share an ambition to accelerate the decarbonisation of construction. Shell’s Powering Progress strategy, set in 2021, committed to net-zero by 2050 and absolute reductions in Scope 1 and 2 emissions of 50% by 2030. Sustainability is also at the heart of Aggregate Industries’ business which aims to accelerate its journey towards Net Zero and achieve it before 2050.
Driving forward net zero ambitions
Setting sustainability goals is an important first step, but the true work starts in delivering on those targets. Both with ambitious goals to meet, Shell and Aggregate Industries partnered on a solution that could help decarbonise roadbuilding in the UK.
The UK has set its own environmental goals; National Highways has announced its Net Zero Highways Plan and made a Greening Government Commitment to reduce its own carbon emissions by 75% by 2025 and to be net-zero in 2030. In 2040, all construction and maintenance activities carried out on the Strategic Road Network will be net-zero as well.1 The task is significant, with maintenance and construction of the UK’s network causing emissions of around 734,000 tonnes of CO2 during 2020,2 equivalent to 159,630 passenger vehicles driven for one year.3
Partnering on a UK first solution
Shell and Aggregate Industries came together to launch the UK’s first commercially available biogenic asphalt. Aggregate Industries’ SuperLow-Carbon asphalt solution was made possible by Shell Bitumen CarbonSink, a new binder incorporating biogenic materials. The new binder locks carbon within the asphalt rather than releasing it back into the atmosphere, effectively turning the road into a technical carbon sink with no effect on performance.
Furthermore, Shell Bitumen CarbonSink enables the biogenic components to remain locked in the road surface even when it is recycled at the end of its life, preventing the release of biogenic carbon back into the atmosphere. The high recycle rate of asphalt not only supports a circular economy, but also ensures the carbon remains locked in the road.
Richard Taylor, Global Technical Development Manager, Shell Construction and Road said: “We are moving the industry towards a net zero asphalt pavement world. This solution is a great example of how innovation can help decarbonise and improve the circularity of construction at the same time. Wide-ranging collaboration across the value chain such as this will be crucial in accelerating the pathway to a net-zero construction sector.”
Capturing carbon within the road
SuperLow-Carbon has provided Aggregate Industries with an innovative solution with multiple advantages that its customers can benefit from. Shell Bitumen CarbonSink’s carbon capturing quality means that up to 6 tonnes of CO2 is bound between each kilometre of pavement. SuperLow-Carbon asphalt requires less energy to manufacture than conventional asphalt, further lowering the product’s carbon footprint.
SuperLow-Carbon is also longer lasting and higher quality. Lower asphalt temperatures during production reduce binder ageing and enhance in-service life expectancy. And even at lower temperatures, SuperLow-Carbon asphalt remains highly compactable for longer than the hot mix equivalent, allowing for more time for full compaction and delivering enhanced performance and durability.
3 EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator
Taken from AI’s Sustainability Strategy on their website
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At Shell, we have a long history of supporting the construction sector. We are passionate about collaborating with our customers and partners as they build the world around us.