In addition to the environment and quality control aspects that today's release agents address, lower maintenance costs are also worth noting. Like diesel, other oil-based solvents, such as soybean and orange oil agents, can have caustic results over time when applied to metal and rubber components.
Protecting equipment against asphalt, especially wear caused by the new polymer mix designs, and keeping the equipment productive during the peak work season, should be another consideration when selecting a release agent.
While many of the environmentally friendly soy- and orange-based solvents will do a good job of cleaning and preventing the buildup of asphalt residue on equipment, the agents don't always protect components from the abrasive contact of asphalt mixes.
New lubricating systems provide smoother operation of moving paver components, like bar and chain assemblies, augers, screeds, rubber tracks, and rubber belts, reducing maintenance costs and minimizing unexpected downtime.
Nick Pittman, president of Tec-Team Industries, manufacturer of Wet-to-Dry Lubrication, says products with additional performance benefits will help convince contractors that there are alternatives that not only meet EPA and DOT requirements, but also improve the overall productivity of their equipment and paving crews.
Elevating perceived value
Release agents suppliers will need to continue promoting the advancements and advantages today's products offer in an effort to elevate their perceived value.
"They're (release agents) not considered leading-edge technology and some users might even consider them commodity items, but they can improve productivity, while addressing a project's quality and environmental concerns," says Tessa Buechler, asphalt product manager for Petroferm, manufacturer of Bioact AR405 release agent. "Equipment manufacturers can also help influence the use of today's environmentally friendly release agents by suggesting what agents will help contractors achieve high productivity and lower maintenance costs."
Most release agent suppliers will agree that a product which is non-detrimental to asphalt's quality, the environment, and the laydown equipment's components but still promotes smooth movement of the asphalt mix through the paving process is a product that will gain wide acceptance. DOT approval will further support the case for using today's release agents, according to Buechler, and hopefully governing agencies will specify the type of release agent that is to be used during the construction of a project. And with industry-wide standards and agency support, the perceived value of today's improved release agents will also improve.
Greg Udelhofen is editor of The Asphalt Contractor, www.asphalt.com.