A ground-breaking partnership between Origin Materials, the world’s leading carbon negative materials company, and AECI Much Asphalt, southern Africa’s largest commercial asphalt manufacturer, is set to take world asphalt production by storm.
Origin Materials, based in West Sacramento, USA, produces low and negative carbon materials with the mission to enable the world’s transition to sustainable materials. This is exactly what the partnership aims to achieve in the asphalt sector.
Origin Materials and AECI Much Asphalt have launched a programme to create a novel low-carbon bitumen. At the heart of the programme lies Origin Materials’ patented technology platform, which turns inexpensive, sustainable wood residues into cost-advantaged, carbon-negative materials that reduce the need for fossil resources.
AECI Much Asphalt is an AECI Group company and AECI is a strategic investor in Origin Materials. The partnership with Origin Materials reflects the commitment of AECI Much Asphalt and its parent company to delivering innovative environmental solutions.
“AECI Much Asphalt and Origin are both committed to innovative, sustainable solutions for bringing the globe to net zero as quickly as possible,” says Origin Materials co-CEO Rich Riley. “With AECI Much Asphalt’s leadership position in asphalt and extensive reach as a supplier to the African continent, we expect that this partnership can result in a significant reduction in carbon emissions and will play a key role in Origin’s mission to enable the world’s transition to sustainable materials.”
“AECI has formalised its strategy to 2025, which has sustainability at its core,” adds Dean Mulqueeny, AECI Group Executive and Chairman of AECI Much Asphalt. “Roll-out of the strategy includes our commitments and targets in terms of carbon intensity reductions. The partnership with Origin is totally aligned with this and exemplifies our brand promise of enabling ‘a better world’ through our products and services.”
For AECI Much Asphalt, the partnership with Origin Materials is a significant step in reducing its own carbon footprint and that of its customers. Herman Marais, Plant and Technical Director at AECI Much Asphalt, says this programme is very significant due to the vital role of bitumen as the binder in asphalt production and the direct relation of the bitumen to the long-term performance of asphalt.
Bitumen is the glue that holds the whole asphalt mix together and aids in compaction during the paving process. Once the asphalt has cooled, the bitumen provides the necessary stiffness and durability to the asphalt layer to last for its design life.
“Although we currently only measure the carbon footprint of our processes during the manufacture of our asphalt products, the carbon footprint of the bitumen itself is high. Turning Origin Materials’ carbon neutral feedstock into an alternative asphalt binder therefore makes huge environmental sense,” says Marais.
The collaboration with Origin Materials is expected to create considerable value in the developing African market, where AECI Much Asphalt is active, and could revolutionise global bitumen production.
AECI Much Asphalt already includes up to 40% reclaimed asphalt in its products in a drive towards sustainable production which has resulted in more than a million tonnes of aggregate not being mined and avoided the refining of some 53 500 tonnes of bitumen since 2012.
The Origin Materials platform is expected to provide stable pricing largely de-coupled from the petroleum supply chain, which is more volatile than supply chains based on sustainable wood residues.
“With the closing of the Engen refinery and recurrent production challenges experienced by the other local refineries, South Africa has become a net importer of bitumen over the past year,” says Marais. “There is no indication that this balance will be redressed in the foreseeable future and the potential of an alternative source of asphalt binder from Origin Materials is an opportunity not only for environmental benefit, but also to ensure sustainability in the South African bitumen and asphalt market.
“There is very exciting development work ahead and we eagerly await the commissioning of Origin Materials’ first production facility at the end of 2022 and its second not long thereafter to start seeing the true benefits of this joint venture.”