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Is It Time to Rethink Your Fuel Source for Asphalt Paving?

 

June 17, 2021

Producing asphalt is inherently an energy-intensive business. From the dryers that remove moisture from gravel, to the burners that heat the mix, the power requirements are high. That’s why most paving companies look solely to cost in deciding which fuel to use.

Many asphalt plants automatically turn to diesel or oil, without realizing that propane, with its comparable heat intensity and overall performance, could be a better choice. Not only is propane competitively priced, it offers several additional benefits over traditional fuels: it’s convenient, it reduces downtime and it’s clean.

 

1. Propane Offers Greater Convenience and Scale

Asphalt paving requires enormous amounts of fuel, often for sites that are off the natural gas grid, which can pose serious logistical challenges.

When this is the case, propane is an ideal choice. Propane offers a secure fuel source that’s easily transported to a work site in any location — from an off-grid parking lot in the downtown core to a remote stretch of northern highway.

When you work with a national propane provider, you’re tapping into a large infrastructure that can scale your supply based on the quantity of fuel needed for your project. You’re also assured of getting that fuel as soon as you need it, with an appropriately sized propane storage tank arriving as soon as you’re ready to get to work.

 

2. Less Downtime with Propane

When you’re considering the cost of various fuel options, are you factoring in maintenance and downtime costs? The operation of some equipment could be costing more than you think if they’re running on poor quality fuels.

Burning bunker oil, for example, produces the most harmful emissions when compared to recycled oil and diesel which in some jurisdictions may require emissions monitoring sensors be installed to monitor emissions levels. In addition to the expense of the monitoring system itself, which is in the area of $100,000, annual calibration of the system costs about $15,000.

Burners that are powered by recycled (used) oil can face costly servicing and lengthy downtimes for repair as they run over time and natural build up occurs however, if the oil is contaminated with water, it immediately causes a bigger issue. Even in small amounts, water in the fuel will result in an inefficient burn resulting in a colder flame and higher emissions.

Whether you burn recycled or bunker oil, the biproducts of combustion can plug the baghouse filters. If you have to shut down on a scheduled working day to clean the baghouse, you’ll be faced with the costs of that downtime – equipment rentals, wages, and any fines for work delays.

Another fuel you may have considered is diesel. It’s a more refined fuel than oil, which means that equipment requires cleaning less often. However, diesel is more expensive than propane, even after factoring in the need to burn 40% more propane to generate the same heat output. Moreover, propane’s cost relative to other fuels is expected to decrease further as carbon taxes increase, since the higher emission fuels face a higher taxation rate. For example, the fuel charge for diesel and oil are expected to be $0.0567 and $0.0819 higher, respectively, than propane by April 2022. Refer to the Fuel Charge Rates table below.

Propane offers cost savings over diesel and burns more cleanly than diesel, bunker oil or recycled oil, resulting in fewer costly repairs and less likelihood of downtime or unscheduled maintenance.

 

Fuel Charge Rates

Type

April 1, 2019 to
March 31, 2020

April 1, 2020 to
March 31, 2021

April 1, 2021 to
March 31, 2022

Beginning
April 1, 2022

Heavy fuel oil

$0.0637 /litre

$0.0956 /litre

$0.1275 /litre

$0.1593 /litre

Diesel/Light fuel oil

$0.0537 /litre

$0.0805 /litre

$0.1073 /litre

$0.1341 /litre

Propane

$0.0310 /litre

$0.0464 /litre

$0.0619 /litre

$0.0774 /litre


Rates of fuel charge for Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Source: Government of Canada

 

3. Propane is the Cleanest Choice

Propane is a cleaner, safer alternative to both oil and diesel. With both of these fuels, even small leaks can contaminate soil and groundwater. A spill requires expensive clean-up procedures, which must adhere to Ministry guidelines. This comes at a significant cost to your operation.

When you choose propane, the possibility of a leak is extremely unlikely since propane is used in a closed system. If any product is released, there is no risk of contamination to ground, water and air. Instead, it simply evaporates as a harmless gas. Propane’s greenhouse gas and particulate emissions are 38% lower than heating oil and emits 98% less particulate matter than diesel.

Given the increasingly widespread focus on sustainability, propane is the right fuel for paving. Environmentally conscious regions and municipalities are imposing new restrictions on fuel choices, such as the ban on the use of bunker oil in British Columbia and the Island of Montreal. By choosing propane, you’re ready to meet even the most stringent of environmental requirements.

 

Propane Meets All the Needs of Your Asphalt Paving Project

With today’s focus on climate change and reduction of greenhouse gases, it’s important for companies in every industry to proactively seek out less hazardous, more environmentally friendly options. When there’s an alternative fuel that also offers a ready, secure supply at the scale you require, helps you avoid costly downtimes, and can do all this at a price that’s competitive with diesel, why wouldn’t you choose propane?

 

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