Breakthrough in emission-free construction of asphalt roads through collaboration in the northeast of the Netherlands

Building asphalt roads without CO2, nitrogen and particulate emissions within a year. It seems an utopia. Something that has never been possible before. “But this will really work through smart collaboration between governments, entrepreneurs and educational institutions in the northeast of the Netherlands,” emphasizes Jan Wienk. He is program manager at the Pioneering Foundation (Stichting Pioneering), the platform where business, government, education and knowledge institutions are connected, and he is the driving force behind the Emission-Free Asphalt Set programme. Jan Wienk regularly brings together key figures from the provinces of Overijssel, Gelderland, Drenthe, Groningen, Friesland, Rijkswaterstaat and about 20 market parties to achieve successful cooperation. “Our goal is the same, but the interests and also the speed at which different agendas run side by side differ greatly. Now that we get to know and speak to each other, we will settle those differences to solve problems and take real steps forward.”

Acceleration of the transition

The infrastructure sector is a major consumer of fossil fuels and therefore emits large amounts of CO2, nitrogen, particulate matter and other harmful substances during the production and processing of asphalt. This has negative consequences for the climate, the environment and nature. According to the climate agreements, CO2 emissions must be reduced by 50% by 2030 and even to zero by 2050. Wienk: “Everyone sees the need to do something about this. Some parties see opportunities and are on the edge of their seat. Some parties wait and put priorities elsewhere. And then there is also the applicable legislation and regulations, including tender procedures, which must be complied with. We see that the current approach too often leads to a standstill of large infrastructure projects, resulting in enormous damage. Both for the sector and for the economy as a whole. By finding each other and working together smarter, it is possible to accelerate the transition to emission-free construction.”

Emission-free and competitive

Within the Emission-Free Asphalt Set programme, four lines have been mapped out with the participating parties: technology, exploitation, funding and contract requirements. Together they pursue one goal: to make an emission-free asphalt set available in 2022. “Such an asphalt set consists of a milling machine, spreading machine, adhesive truck, rollers and shuttle buggy with front loader,” explains Wienk. Students, together with program participants, are investigating the most suitable solution for making an emission-free asphalt set available. But research is also being conducted into what is possible to make emission-free working competitive compared to the conventional way of working. Clients must then take this into account in tenders. Jan Wienk and the participants recognize the obstacles, but do not avoid them. “The urgency and necessity are too great for that.”