In spite of the government's policy shift towards building four- and six-lane National Highways as concrete roads, plans to construct more rural roads and coastal roads will drive the demand for asphalt plants in the future. EQUIPMENT INDIA explores the road ahead for asphalt plants.
Infrastructure projects are picking up momentum after a lull in the past three-four years, with many stalled projects under construction, while new projects are being announced by the government in various segments such as roads & highways, ports, airports, etc. The government's new policy initiatives and Budget support has also fuelled the positive trends in the industry. Considering the new trends in the vast network of asphalt roads in India and more road projects anticipated in the future, asphalt plant manufacturers in India are hoping for a turnaround in demand for their offerings in the coming years.
The roads & highways segment has received a new boost in the wake of increased fund allocation in Budget 2017. Apart from constructing more highways and rural roads, the government also has plans for creating 2,000 km of coastal roads to connect ports across the country. Other infrastructure projects such as new airports are also on the anvil. All these together are expected to push forward an increased requirement for asphalt in the coming years.
Sunil Sapru, Region Director- India, Ammann Apollo India, sees some positives in the project activities.
According to him, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has been insisting on the use of asphalt batch plants in all the state highways and Public Works Department (PWD) works.
'This recommendation is gaining currency, with many states making the use of asphalt batch plants mandatory in works exceeding certain values. So the demand for asphalt batch plants will continue to be on the upswing for at least another five-six years before reaching a plateau. We foresee demand of higher capacity plants between the ranges of 200-260 t/h. The demand for higher capacity plants will be based on large-size projects to be awarded as BOT or in the recently approved Hybrid Annuity Model,' Sapru comments.
Pinaki Niyogy, Vice President - Manufacturing & Engineering, TIL, is also positive about the emerging trends in the market. He observes, 'As India stands to become one of the largest growth engines in the world, huge investment in infrastructure has been planned by the government in recent times. India has a total road network of approximately 4.3 million km. Though there has been a policy shift by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to build almost all four- and six-lane national highways into concrete roads, out of the total road network, national highways are merely 2.5 per cent. NHAI's target is to build at a rate of 40 km of roads per day and apart from the National Highways, there is a huge potential to upgrade state highways, major and district roads, and rural roads.'
According to Divya Mundra, Vice President - Business Development, Basic Engineering Group, year-onyear, India is definitely marching with bigger steps towards its infrastructure sector goals. Asphalt batching plants, as one of the major mediums to realise this dream, are witnessing a demand pick-up. ôHowever, the demand for asphalt batching plants is yet to reach its brim since not all state governments and urban development authorities like MMRDA, JDA, IDA, etc.,
compulsorily tender use of these plants for road construction. Further, NHAI too, has recently started tendering more concrete roads,' Mundra says. She adds, 'Nevertheless, we suppose that new road projects which are being envisaged by both state governments and the Ministry of Surface Transport will have bituminous roads. This will further kick off demands for asphalt plants in India.
Budget boost Sapru foresees demand growth for asphalt plants in the wake of the Budget support for road projects. The government has allocated Rs 64,900 crore for construction and expansion of highways. Also, 2,000 km of coastal connectivity roads will be developed in the next financial year. In addition, the government has allocated a sum of Rs 19,000 crore towards the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) in 2017-18 to complete the current target under PMGSY by 2019, and together with the contribution of states, an amount of Rs 27,000 crore is to be spent on the scheme in 2017-18. The pace of construction of PMGSY has accelerated to reach 133 km of road per day in 2016-17, as against an average of 73 km during the period 2011-2014.
'This investment on building rural roads and highways would create the demand for different road building equipment like compactors, pavers, paving plants, asphalt mixing plants, road roller machines and others. Both new and used road building equipment will witness demand during the period,' says Sapru.
Niyogy feels that infrastructure spend, mainly on roads, remains at the forefront of Budget 2017-18. He comments, 'Budgetary allocation for National Highways has been enhanced by 11 per cent from Rs 57,676 crore to Rs 64,000 core. This enhancement, coupled with the target to build 40 km of National Highways and 140 km of PMGSY roads every day will propel the growth in coming days.'
In spite of the increased budgetary allocation for road projects, Mundra is not on the same page about the benefits for asphalt equipment. She feels, 'Budget 2017 has made reasonable allocations for road projects with unclear spilt between asphalt and concrete roads which makes it a little tricky to make a categorical statement. Having said that, in the larger scheme of things, it seems all logical that demand for asphalt batching plants will increase.'
Techno trends According to Niyogy, the major shift in technology was initiated by NHAI and MoRTH when the infrastructure boom started in India in the 1990s. At that point of time, batch technology was preferred over continuous technology with the objective of producing consistent mix and quality roads. 'Continuous technology has evolved over the last couple of decades, and many countries have adopted this technology wholeheartedly in view of the inherent benefits this technology offers over a batch plant,' says Niyogy.
TIL, in technical collaboration with Astec Inc, markets a wide range of asphalt batching plants - that are robust with versatile features adaptable to Indian needs.
Niyogy elaborates, 'We can cater to different segments of road projects with Astec-TIL hot mix asphalt plant ranging from 120 t/h to 300 t/h. We have unique double-barrel technology (where heating of aggregates is done in the inner barrel whereas mixing is done in the outer barrel) and the 'Voyager' model with unified drum where heating and mixing is done in the same drum.'
Niyogi highlights the important features of Astec-TIL plants:
Sapru elaborates on Ammann Apollo's range of asphalt plants, 'Our plants come with a wider operating window in terms of capacity so that, depending upon the production requirement, a plant can be operated at different capacities. However, one needs to select the optimum size of the plant for the intended project.
Further, the plants are designed to deliver the rated capacity and for continuous working. Hence, the user can decide the operating hours of the plant during the day. Some features like hot mix storage silo again provide more flexibility in operation optimisation, making them suitable for small, medium and even long contracts. We provide the plant on steel foundations, wherein very strong concrete foundations are not needed. The plants are of modular construction and each module is dimensioned for easy transportation.
We offer efficient, low-pressure burners that can handle some deviations in fuel quality and our efficient bag house helps in controlling the emissions.'
Basic Engineering's product lineage includes stationary/mobile/ recycling asphalt batching plants from SPECO. Mundra claims, 'SPECO innovations have already been proven at the job site, and provided high performance, efficiency, long lasting durability, the accuracy (without an error) of all weighing units, perfect control system and environmentfriendly solutions like an innovative fuel gas treatment system to preserve environment for customers.'
She adds, 'All SPECO mobile units are dynamic and versatile. For prompt mobility with fully automatic control of drying, weighing, and mixing up to discharging aggregates, SPECO mobile plants feature easy transportation, simple installation and dismantlement and finally materialise the compact design of cold bins, dryers, batch towers, bag filter houses, tanks and silos. Hence, the greater mobility can reduce the customer's time to disassemble, transfer and re-assemble a plant after a road construction project.'
Mundra highlights the advantages of the SPECO range, 'SPECO plants provide manifold advantages like innovative technology of mixer increases overall productivity by up to 20 per cent, depending on mixture design; maintenance costs can be saved by 20 per cent; innovative flight design of dryers materialises a complete aggregate curtain to maximise heat efficiency; original SPECO low noise burner (invented and patented by SPECO) utilises an air atomising system, which gives low fuel consumption, and 100 per cent combustion; the bag house is designed to provide the largest volume for a given airflow with filter bag cleaning system by pulse jet air, etc.'
Use of RAP in projects Use of Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement (RAP) in virgin asphalt mix to enable sustainable road construction is a new trend picking up in asphalt road construction.
According to Niyogy, recycling technology is still in the nascent stage in India. MoRTH, IRC, CRRI, NHAI and other agencies have initiated steps by encouraging concessionaires to recycle whatever they can, so as to reduce carbon footprint in road construction for sustainable asphalt pavements. Use of RAP has been made mandatory by NHAI and the Flexible Pavement Committee of IRC has formulated standard specifications for usage of up to 60 per cent RAP. 'The awareness of the usage of RAP is now gradually increasing as organisations do know that they are sitting on 'black gold' and the knowledge to use RAP the appropriate way is also gaining momentum,' Niyogy adds.
According to Sapru, although the usage of RAP is in its nascent stage in India, there are positive indications, based on contractor feedback, that usage may grow as road project developers look to cut asphalt batching and laying costs. He elaborates, 'Usage of higher volumes of RAP allows the plant to gain heat through overheating of other aggregates. This can generate high levels of fumes along with reducing the quality of bitumen due to oxidation. This requires special technology in the asphalt batch mix plants to those suited to use overheated aggregates and RAP with processes and technology that allow sufficient time to expel the vapour, while new bitumen is injected. This has to be accomplished while keeping the temperature homogeneous throughout the mix.'
Mundra comments on the use of RAP in India, 'Undeniably, there has been a gradual shift in the Indian customer mindset from being 'price driven' to being 'quality conscious'.
However, not many of them can be called as 'environment' focussed. It will take some time for customers to prefer using RAP material in virgin asphalt mix over other plants.'
She explains the practical difficulties of using RAP in road projects. 'In most cases for expansion of state highways, contractors face the practical difficulty of getting good quality RAP. Most existing state highways have been paved from the use of drum mix plants which has impacted the quality of RAP. The RAP milled from these roads is neither of standard quality nor approved by authorities. However, in cases for roads paved with asphalt batch plants, RAP may be used for widening. And so, a trend is yet to emerge in terms of using RAP.'
RAP-enabled plants RAP can be added three ways - into the drier drum, into the mixer, and preheated in a parallel RAP drier drum. Sapru elaborates on Ammann Apollo's RAP-enabled plants, 'Ammann's scientifically designed RAH drier ensures much reduced super-heating of fresh aggregates by making use of radiation heat. Indirect heating by radiation heat ensures much lesser oxidation. Some manufacturers have simple RAP addition ring in the drum behind the burner, wherein all the heat needs to be provided from super-heated fresh aggregates. While adding in the mixer, there is a special steam evacuation system to remove the moisture before fresh bitumen is added. Ammann's specially developed plant control system provides user-friendly control flexibility for the operator to control the process optimally. Ammann Apollo's RAP drum lifters in high temperature zones are made from special grade steel. This allows them to withstand the high temperature associated with usage of RAP. Our high recycling technology plants are proven in Europe and Australia, where there are stringent regulations for pollution and quality of mix.'
TIL also offers RAP-enabled asphalt plants. Says Niyogy, 'We have a unique double barrel technology, where heating of aggregates is done in the inner barrel and mixing of RAP, virgin aggregates, bitumen and fillers is done in the outer barrel. The capability of the equipment to use up to 50 per cent RAP without any modification, and the ease with which the plant can be operated, is its uniqueness.'
He adds, 'We have another variant of RAP-enabled plant called Astec Voyager-120, where we can use up to 30 per cent RAP in a unified drum. Here, heating and mixing is done in a single drum. The motivation to use RAP with ease is encouragement enough for a customer to embrace this offering as it would substantially lower the cost of road construction and also help preserve the environment.'
SPECO offers RAP-enabled plants as a solution to recycle waste asphalt by mixing it together with new material after heating it up. This offers an opportunity not only to cut production costs, but also to produce environment-friendly equipment.
Mundra says, 'There are essentially two kinds of RAP materials, cold RAP and warm RAP. In case of cold RAP, milled material is stored in the storage bin and then injected in the mixer via a weighing bin. Whereas in the case of warm bins, another dryer is installed for heating RAP material and stored in storage bin and then, likewise, injected in the mixer via a weighing bin. For warm RAP, one can use 40 per cent RAP material and for cold RAP, 12-15 per cent RAP material can be used.'
There is a rising trend in the demand for asphalt batch mix plants in India. Says Sapru, 'The spurt in demand is being driven according to the stipulations of NHAI, based on its ambitious 50,000 km road development programme. Insistence of PWDs for usage of asphalt plants is also behind the rising demand. Manufacturers of asphalt batch mix plants are looking to tap the growing demand. This is being done through placement of products with competitive technical properties. This primarily involves plants with lesser fuel consumption, ease of movement and emissions, and usage of recycled materials.'
He adds, 'Interestingly, plant manufacturers are incorporating the advancements through introduction of plants of varied capacities to cater to the needs of varied road contractor segments in the road construction sector. This is predominantly characterised by the mass demand segment of lower capacity plants of 120-160 t/h. This is typically for two-lane EPC projects.'
Niyogy states, 'As mentioned earlier, presently we have only 2.5 per cent of National Highways and we have huge infrastructure deficit in roads. Demand for all-weather roads for connecting the hinterland to major highways, border roads, coastal roads, port connectivity, etc., is the need of the hour. Apart from the Central government, all state governments are also focussing and investing in better infrastructure. Besides these, there are also Smart City projects which will drive demand for asphalt plants.'
According to Mundra, technology innovation in areas like more energy efficiency, less environmental emissions, more automated controls, etc., along with the government's insistence on making 'quality' roads using these plants, will drive demand.
With MoRTH insisting on the use of asphalt batch plants in all state highways and PWD works, many states are making the use of asphalt batch plants mandatory in works exceeding a certain value. According to Sapru, because of this initiative, the demand for asphalt batch plants will continue to be on the upswing for at least another five-six years before it plateaus.
Niyogy says, 'Asphalt plants will always remain the preferred choice in a country like India due to lower cost of construction of asphalt roads and use of recycling. To build roads, hot mix asphalt plants will always be one of the economical choices and it is expected that the demand for these plants should also grow by 10-12 per cent on a year-on-year basis.
'We expect a CAGR anywhere between 15-20 per cent,' states Mundra. She also suggests, 'The Central government should adopt best practices for road construction by making detailed studies of other advanced countries. The government can mandate that screening, a pertinent function for asphalt batching plants, should be done with vibrating screens only, which has universal acceptance.'
India has a vast network of roads and highways, and is still in need of more roads in rural areas and coastal regions. So it is sure that there will be a growing demand for quality roads and most of them will be bituminous roads owing to economic and viability factors. Currently, the government plan for concrete roads will be restricted to mostly National Highways and state highways. Since the major chunk of the road network in India falls under bituminous roads, there will be demand growth for asphalt in coming years, which is good news for asphalt plant manufacturers, at least in the short to medium term.
Use of RAP has been made mandatory by NHAI and the Flexible Pavement Committee of IRC has formulated standard specifications for usage of up to 60 per cent RAP.
- Sudheer Vathiyath