The global asphalt/bitumen market is expected to reach 124 million metric tons in 2011 representing an estimated turnover of $74.4 billion. Prices were as low as $115 per metric ton delivered at the refinery in 1999, topping $200 in 2005 rising to more than $600 in the summer of 2011. Demand is forecast to rise 2.1 percent annually through 2013. There is a deceleration from the previous years mostly due to the slower growth in China which nevertheless remains the key growth market in the world. The best growth segment in the developing world is bitumen not for roads, but rather for roofing, now already representing ten percent of the total output compared to 84 percent for road pavement. A small remaining part is used to waterproof boats. Demand for asphalt in roofing products currently accounts for a relatively small portion of total roofing demand thus offering opportunities for growth in Asia (except Japan) and Latin America. China will become the world’s second largest national market for asphalt roofing after the USA.
One ton of asphalt 18 inches deep covers one square yard. Asphalt emulsions and polymer modified asphalts are posting gains while the traditional asphalt cement lags behind on the market. One of the key shifts is the replacement of non-porous asphalt, which causes aquaplaning with porous asphalt which offers higher safety to road transportation. Apart from the traditional leading refineries in the world belonging to established multinational corporations like Exxon Mobil, BP, Chevron and Shell, the Latin American company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) has taken a dominant position internationally since Venezuela has some of the world’s largest deposits of bitumen in Orinoco oil sands good for an estimated 300 billion barrels, only matched by the Canadian reserves in Alberta with 310 billion barrels. If these reserves were used at today’s rate of consumption of 4.4 million barrels per day, then these countries could supply the world for approximately 400 years.