SOUTH Africa should use concrete to build roads and not rely on bitumen which is a by-product of oil processing and thus dependent on an industry where supply fluctuations are common, says the MD of the Cement & Concrete Institute (C&CI), Bryan Perrie.
Last week the South African National Roads Agency said road refurbishments were being delayed because it had to wait for bitumen imports as local refineries were not producing the material fast enough.
“Reports that another bitumen shortage is looming because of maintenance shutdowns by oil refineries, potentially disrupting road construction, have again shown that South Africa should consider the full potential of concrete as road-building material,” Mr Perrie said.
The chairman of the South African Petroleum Industry Association, Total SA’s CEO Christian des Closieres, said last week the association had not yet worked out a way of making, or importing, bitumen on a timely and reliable basis.
Mr Perrie said the industry was expecting a shortfall of about 20% of South Africa’s bitumen requirements due to shutdowns, with suppliers having to rely on costly imports to meet demand.
However, the C&CI says concrete and bitumen could be used together in road construction. Pieter Fourie, CEO of cement company Sephaku, said he believed concrete should be the primary road building material in South Africa.
“It is much more durable than bitumen. While the initial cost of concrete roads is higher than bitumen, the total lifetime cost of concrete roads is much more economical because it does not need the intensive maintenance of bitumen roads”.