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Thunder Bay sustainable asphalt project yielding positive results

July 26, 2023  By Rock to Road Staff

(Photo credit: Adobe Stock)

THUNDER BAY, Ont. – A project to demonstrate the resistance of sustainable asphalt is showing positive results.

Recent inspections on a stretch of road outside of Thunder Bay’s Solid Waste and Recycling Facility, paved two years ago with asphalt mixed with pulp mill waste as part of the ongoing pilot project, show a notable resistance to vehicular loads with no signs of cracking or potholes.

The project is a collaboration between Pioneer Construction and FP Innovations, a forest industry research and development nonprofit, with inspections being carried out by a team at Lakehead University.

The modified asphalt has had five per cent of its bitumen replaced with lignin, a binding polymer found in trees that is a common waste product of the pulp and paper process.


The team is testing a hypothesis that the presence of lignin will present a higher resistance to cracking and potholes in virgin asphalt. Currently, the modified asphalt is performing equivalent to an adjacent stretch of road paved with regular asphalt.

Since the laying of the modified asphalt two years ago, Pioneer Construction have used lignin-modified asphalt in mixtures ranging from 10 to 20 per cent for paving projects across Quebec and British Columbia.

Thunder Bay has proven an active site of lignin research in recent years, with two pilot biorefineries being installed at the Thunder Bay pulp mill, in addition to federal and provincial funding of advanced research facilities at Lakehead University.

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