AJAY TRIPATHI, Technical Director, Nilang Asphalt Equipments, elaborates on the future of asphalt plants in India.
I'm often asked what the future holds in the way of asphalt plant design. The future vision holds the view that cars will travel through the air. We all hope thats a few decades off because it doesn't bode well for our industry: I don't see a need for roads in mid-air.
For now, AC plant design is being driven by the NHAI as they write more specialised specifications requiring yet another compromise in the functionality of our current plant designs. We are blending polymers, latex's and rubber in 30-year-old asphalt plant designs. We are doing open graded mixes and super-pave mixes in plants designed for the dense mixes of the 70s.
Several things are influencing what happens at the manufacturers end. One is the current trend toward super-pave mixes. Another is the ever tightening emission restrictions and, of course, there is the issue of ever increasing competition which requires plants to get more and more cost-efficient. In batch mix plants, with twice the moving parts to wear out, they are simply too expensive to operate and maintain.
Our industry does not seem to have a glamorous image.
So, in-house personnel training is becoming more important. Over the years, I have been at numerous small paving organisations training a new plant operator to replace one who had either had an accident or had simply quit. Hence, an in-house training regimen has become essential for even the smallest of paving companies. We, as an industry, must do something. Maybe we should have youth-oriented websites for our paving companies, or our asphalt paving associations.
Fugitive smoke issues are going to become more important. We will need to control the blue smoke we get under our loadout silos. This will probably be done with either tertiary fans, which will move the smoke back to the burner, or with smoke chokes under the silos. I see condensers on our AC tank ventilation systems.
Another seldom considered issue is odour control at our plants. To us, hot asphalt smells good. But to the general public it stinks.
What about the next five years? Zoning issues are going to become critical. All too often we were not sensitive enough to our neighbours around our asphalt plants. People complained of truck traffic, noise and noxious odours. As long as we had our permits, we ignored the concerns of our neighbours and soldiered on, oblivious to the damage we were doing to our image. As time passes, it's going to get tougher and tougher to site an asphalt plant in an urban setting.
It is quite possible that no new plants will be allowed in or close to our larger cities. This, in my opinion, will place a high premium on smaller, highly portable asphalt plants. Larger companies might have two or three 100 tonne per hour plants in the same market area where they would have had a single 160 tonne per hour stationary plant in earlier years. Cities will probably issue temporary use permits for work in their jurisdictions allowing these smaller plants to move in, set-up and do the job then move out again.
The near future will also see the death of the wet-scrubber at our asphalt plants. I think they will be buried in rules and requirements, like weekly water testing and certification, making their daily operation cost prohibitive.
While all these issues will drive the cost of road repairs skyward, it will be perceived as necessary to preserve our way of life.
In emergent economies in India, we will be where we are now or perhaps were ten years ago.
(Communication by the management of the company)