A new application for Gilsonite has risen within the past 10 years, and that is using natural bitumen as a raw material to make petroleum bitumen. Basically petroleum bitumen is made from sludge or slurry, obtained from the bottom of distillation tank, at the oil refinery. Slurry is transferred to bitumen manufacturing facilities to get processed into Petroleum Bitumen, also called Penetration Bitumen.
In order to utilize Gilsonite in this application, the material must be mixed with the slurry into the hot blend to make the Bitumen. The most proper material here is Gilsonite Powder 200 Mesh. The Gilsonite powder will react with slurry molecules and gradually form the bitumen particles. This reaction is catalyzed by the heating processes inside production tanks.
This technology is mastered by the Chinese and also is being used in other countries including India & Iran. In such places the road paving standards allow the bitumen manufacturers to supply Gilsonite Blended Bitumen to the road contractors.
This Gilsonite usage results in supplying a lower price product to end users. Many producers apply Gilsonite where the Natural Bitumen is to be reached at a better price than the slurry from the refinery. This allows to mix Gilsonite with slurry at a 20-80 ratio, decreasing the production cost by 5-10% on the final product. In order to do so, the Gilsonite suppliers are securing only high ash content Gilsonite from inexpensive origins such as Iran Gilsonite and Angola Natural Bitumen, rather than costly high quality Gilsonite from the USA.
When applying Gilsonite into slurry, the Gilsonite ash content cannot resolve in the oil matter. This is because the cheap natural bitumen’s “solubility in TCE” does not exceed 70-80%. Therefore the resulting product will bear the ash content of the Gilsonite, and its bitumen content will decline to below 99.5%(the petroleum bitumen standard threshold). As a result the final product will certainly not cover the international standards of road paving if only the economical method of bitumen blending with Gilsonite is used.