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Counting the carbon of road surface treatments

Since the largest chunk of a road’s embodied carbon comes from the production of the materials that go into it, surely it makes carbon sense to prolong the life of that road as much as possible? One way to do that is to apply treatments such as surface dressing or slurry microsurfacing which delay the need for maintenance and major rehabilitation.

Of course, those surface treatments come with a carbon footprint too. Knowing what those are would be hugely helpful to road authorities that are looking to demonstrate the carbon savings they can generate with a well-planned maintenance regime. Which is why the Road Surface Treatment Association (RSTA) has produced RSTA Carbon Emissions for road surface and other maintenance treatments for asset management purposes. (Not the snappiest of titles, but it does what it says on the cover).

Produced for the RSTA by PYE-Management and launched at the association’s annual conference on 13 April, the guide includes calculations of the carbon treatment of various surface treatments from cradle-to-laid. In life cycle analysis speak that means stages A1 to A5, from extraction of raw materials to construction. The figures will be reviewed and updated where necessary every three years.

It also includes the embodied carbon for some other treatments including crack and joint repairs, in-situ recycling and thermal patching. And it includes the embodied carbon for resurfacing (although those figures don’t consider the carbon spent to remove the old surface). Thermal Road Repairs was one of the 13 companies who participated in the compilation of the guide, providing information and data to the authors.

PYE-Management, a specialist in carbon footprint calculations and management system, carried out the calculations in line with National Highways guidance and in accordance with the relevant international standards. For those not au fait with the ins and outs of life cycle analysis, the front part of the guide includes an explanation of what embodied carbon is and how it is calculated and talks the reader through the definitions of the various types of road surface treatments.

Thermal Road Repairs managing director Aidan Conway, who sits on the RSTA’s Patching Systems & Patching Products Committee welcomed the publication of the guidance. “Road authorities are being asked to make decisions based on carbon and cost, but they can’t do that if they don’t have reliable information,” he said. “This guide will allow them to compare different maintenance and preservation methods and to justify their strategies with cold, hard – and independently verified - facts.”

Thermal Road Repairs prides itself on being transparent and highlighting its low carbon emissions via a qualified source, which is something not many other companies in this sector can claim. With our relationship with Asphalt IQ, we have proven that we offer savings of 85%+ in carbon emissions, versus more traditional methods. What is interesting to note is that, according to the independent report by the RSTA, Thermal Road Repairs’ method offers a carbon emissions saving of over 197% versus in-situ recycling methods, over 29% savings versus spray injection patching and over 1800% versus crack and joint repair solutions (see report for table of CO2 emissions). It also offers a huge 306% saving in carbon emissions versus traditional methods. However, it should be noted that the savings will be much higher as the calculations don’t take into consideration the carbon emissions produced for the break out and removal of waste road surface by the traditional method.

So, for the sake of a happier and brighter future, shouldn’t you consider lower carbon emission options?


Thermal Road Repairs is a green technology company which supplies systems to improve the quality, cost and time efficiency of road repairs and paving – at a far lower environmental cost than traditional methods. It invests significantly in R&D, to create new technologies and to continuously improve existing ones.

Thermal Road Repairs: Decarbonising the asphalt repair industry.

High output. Low emission. Zero waste. Permanent solution.



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