Public works sites will be delayed in September, for lack of bitumen


Bitumen exists in the natural state. It has been used for centuries for many uses, it was even used for mummification in Egypt. In France, 2.8 million tonnes of bitumen are used annually … for more traditional uses. The repair and construction of roads use nearly 90%.

At Vinci, everything is fine except the image

But the bitumen is missing. Oil and construction workers were gathered on August 28 by the Ministry of Ecology and Transport to work on solutions to this chronic crisis. The shortage of bitumen is explained by a "Strong tension, which leads to scarcity in case of any imbalance", according to the French Union of Petroleum Industries (Ufip). Indeed, balances are precarious.

Recurrent crisis, known causes

On the one hand, the French production capacity is limited. Bitumen is made from petroleum, but refineries are slowly disappearing. In France, their number has been halved in ten years. In Europe, it is the same and Belgium has only one. In addition, production units still in operation are aging and require more and more maintenance operations.

"Two months off this autumn for Gonfreville in Normandy, for example, hence forecasts of shortages of 50 to 100 tonnes per month between September and October"according to Pierre de Thé, director of communication of Routes de France.

Calendar constraints

Added to this is a use of bitumen mainly between June and September (except August with the holidays) when are realized nearly 50% of public works. A concentration that can not be explained only by the mild weather conditions in the structures.

More than a third of this work is road-related, which is financed by the government and whose budgets are voted between March and April. This calendar, followed by the tendering phases, loses about two months during which the work would be technically possible.

Simple solutions, unrealistic in the short term

Builders and tankers, as well as asphalt road hauliers – whose sector is also struggling because of lack of manpower – are aware that their coordination is essential. However, the market remains subject to the slightest hazard. The maintenance operations are concerted with the tankers, but not all can be planned, especially in case of damage or when they concern pipelines, as was the case twice this year.

Since no bitumen substitution product is currently known and the import seems complex, " the key to the problem is owned by the government ", Analysis of Tea Stone. " Beyond their ability to change the work schedule, they could also promote recycled bitumen He completes. Tenders could include environmental variants for example.

Unrealistic smoothing

On the business side, the smoothing of consumption is unrealistic, as it is subject to buyers. Remains to dig the trail of new storage solutions, which would make inventory in case of shortage.

Since bitumen can not be produced on demand, construction delays are predictable. If strategic works contracts have anticipated the current shortage, it is very likely that the smaller projects are shifted.

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