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Biobased Sealant Paves Way to the Future

By Brittany Gilbertson

In Hutchinson, soybeans spent a long time on the road before arriving at the April Road Sealant Forum, which presented several years’ worth of data on the sealant’s efficacy in preventing road deterioration.

Research findings by the United Soybean Board, suggest that biobased road sealants have a positive impact on road quality, the environment and city budgets. However, AURI’s main reason for championing the project was to evaluate another potential market for Minnesota-grown soybeans. To judge the potential market share of these products that could be allocated to these products, researchers needed to determine a city’s likelihood of use. In turn, local governments required further evidence of cost savings.

More than 50 attendees from construction, engineering and local governments convened April 20 to learn more about the sealants, their applications and impacts. The study conducted by the City of Hutchinson concluded that if applied to new pavement, the soybean-based sealant may delay the first chip and seal repair by six to eight years and can be applied a second time to further delay road work for 12 to 16 years. As a result, the soybean-based road sealants could save an estimated 30 percent of a typical city’s road repair budget, freeing these funds for other projects.

To encourage the adoption of the sealants, AURI in cooperation with partners disseminated the information directly to key decision-makers who could bring this technology to cities, municipalities, parks and commercial properties throughout Minnesota.

“We brought industry leaders to Hutchinson to share results and strategize how to bring these methods to the state,” said Harold Stanislawski, AURI project development director. “AURI hopes to see more trials and more evidence for the role of soybean-based road sealants in the state’s roadway projects.”

The Road Sealant Forum opened with remarks from AURI and Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council on the status of soy-based road sealants. A panel of sealant applicators – with representatives from B&D Striping, Bargen, Inc., Minnesota Asphalt and Aexcel for Bio-Stripe – discussed best practices for the sealant application and non-petroleum based striping and Cargill shared information on road rejuvenates. Another presentation on the Latest Research and Experience on Soy-Based Dust Control from North Dakota State University and EDC Dust Control, Inc. explained how soy products can be used in tandem with sealants for road protection. The biobased products result in both road life and environmental benefits.

“Communities like ours are looking for ways to become more sustainable. Using ag-based products for maintenance and preservation activities will help to reach our goal, while at the same time being friendlier to our environment and supporting local agriculture,” said John Olson, public works manager for City of Hutchinson. “We learned about products that are already available and some that are in development. The information gathered at the forum will be used by City staff to review our operations to see if we can introduce even more ag-products into our operations.”

The main portion of the program focused on the specific RePLAY™ soy-based road sealant and its performance on Hutchinson city streets. Research conducted by the Local Operational Research Assistance Program found the sealant permeated the pavement surface and performed well on both trails with significant damage and relatively new asphalt. According to the research report summary, after the application water ran off the paved surfaces at a higher rate of speed without wicking into the surface. Thus, the product serves to protect roadways from deterioration and maintain skid resistance for vehicles. According to its manufacturer BioSpan Technologies, Inc., RePLAY™ reverses the oxidation process and protects asphalt from potholing, edge rutting
and cracking.

The City of Hutchinson reported other benefits such as a short drying time, non-tacky residue and no stickiness in hot weather as observed with petroleum-based sealants. There may be specific benefits to applying soybean-based road sealants to park systems and other areas concerned with the land pollution impact.

“Utilizing a Minnesota commodity like soybeans in road application has benefits to the rural communities in which they are grown, but also to the public and the roadways that benefit from extended life,” said Mike Youngerberg, Minnesota Soybean senior director of field services in an attribution on the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council website.

As asphalt prices increase so do the cost of petroleum-based sealants. Overall results indicate that RePLAY™ would be cost-effective.

“We’re excited that an agricultural product can help solve significant budgetary and road life issues in Minnesota,” said Stanislawski. “AURI is committed to advancing such projects in the state. The forum is just the beginning of the journey for the economic case study analysis in Hutchinson and forecasting for other local governments. We need to understand where this product can be applied and work to educate city and state officials on how to advance the use of agricultural-based road sealants.” AURI is working with partners now to advance the technology in Minnesota by formulating more demonstrations and validating performance.

The Road Sealant Forum was part of AURI’s Innovation Network Program, which brings together thought leaders to identify industry needs and implement innovative ideas. The event concluded with a site visit to the treated roadways in Hutchinson.

“I have seen first-hand some very interesting soybean food applications, but the most innovative uses may not be food products,” said AURI board member John Schafer. “AURI plays an important role in studying other uses for agricultural products; it’s so meaningful for the organization to be able to bring together stakeholders who can grow new market segments.”