As the surface for some 95 per cent of our roads - as well for playgrounds, footways, car and lorry parking areas, airport runways and much more - it is uniquely versatile. Asphalt is an essential material for ensuring the safe and efficient transportation of goods and people on the vital arteries of motorways and local roads across the country, enabling our 24/7/365, door-to-door networks.
The UK asphalt industry generally produces in excess of 20 million tonnes of asphalt every year, from nearly 300 plants and depots located primarily in quarries for access to source materials but also in 'satellite' plants in urban locations to serve specific local markets, and even temporarily installed on project sites for major road or airfield construction works.
While strength comes from the aggregates, the binding agent is normally an oil-based bitumen refined from crude oil. The composition is varied to suit the end use. The asphalt production process involves blending dried aggregates with the bitumen binder, mixed at a suitable temperature to ensure coating.
Asphalt materials have evolved in a variety of ways over many years, but the pace of developments in product design, production and installation processes since the start of the 21st century has been more significant.
The current generation of modern asphalts offers a range of important properties that improve road safety, maximise road life, reduce maintenance, enable re-use and recycling and contribute to decarbonisation.
Asphalt production, installation processes, materials composition and performance are all regulated to protect the environment, and operate under suites of Standards and Specifications to ensure they are fit for purpose.
Asphalts provide a range of engineering and user benefits, including:
Reducing spray and managing run-off of water, to give good visibility during rainy conditions
The UK industry is driving towards the production and use of more sustainable and environmentally friendly asphalts, through increased use of recycled materials and targeting reductions in energy use by lowering mixture temperatures.
Summaries of some of the challenges which the industry has been facing, and sustainable solutions can be found in the videos and brochures below:
Asphalt technology has come a long way since its earliest use in road construction. A more recent step forward has come with the development of modern Warm Mix Asphalts.
Watch the MPA Warm Mix Asphalt video.
Britain’s roads are set to undergo a massive upgrade aimed at making our network world-class, and in doing so driving economic prosperity.
Watch the Tomorrow's Roads video.
Guidance on the range of applications of asphalt can be found here.
In September 2018, the annual residential course in Asphalt Materials and Flexible Pavements, achieved the landmark of being held for 45 consecutive years at the University of Newcastle in conjunction with MPA, and co-promoted by partner trade and technical organisations.
The Course traditionally takes place in the first full week of September after the late August Bank Holiday and continues to remain at the forefront of training for asphalt technology. The syllabus is annually reviewed and amended to keep the course both topical and relevant to the needs of industry and specifier participants alike.
Full details and booking are available online by visiting the University website.
The University of Derby Centre for Mineral Products Professional Development, in conjunction with Institute of Asphalt Technology, offers various NVQ, Diploma and Degree course which can lead to professional industry institute membership qualifications. The MPA, like the Institute of Asphalt Technology, promotes these routes to qualification but in addition, the Institute runs short courses throughout the year for industry staff to maintain and increase their knowledge. the University of Derby.
The UK asphalt industry has been committed to improving workforce competence for many years. For example, its commitment to the National Highways Sector Schemes for asphalt production and laying have supported improvements in product compliance and performance. Revision of competency requirements within these Schemes is under ongoing development and review.
MPA provides information and guidance on asphalt products through the Asphalt Information Service which is contactable via the main MPA telephone number: +44 (0) 20 7963 8000 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note this website is maintained to provide information and guidance on UK issues, products and applications of those products.
The Mineral Products Association (MPA) is the trade association for the aggregates, asphalt, cement, concrete, dimension stone, lime, mortar and silica sand industries.