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Frequently Asked Questions
Trinidad Lake Asphalt (TLA)
A Modifier/ Enhancer of Unparalleled Performance
A. To date, TLA is the only commercially viable source of natural asphalt in the world. Trinidad is not the only place to boast of a naturally occurring asphaltic deposit and indeed, scattered all over the world are natural asphalt deposits of varying quality, but in terms of commercially global viability, TLA is unique and singular
A. Other natural asphalt-like, or better yet, tar-like deposits can also be found in Venezuela, Indonesia, Canada and the USA.
A. Asphalt-like deposits found elsewhere in the world are either below water, of a quality not suitable for use in the road industry or are below the earth such that it can be mined, but at some expense, such as those found in the USA, called gilsonite. Surface mining available to TLA does not only make TLA more cost effective, but its high quality, as sanctioned by global asphalt authorities, also bring merit to its claim of "….only commercially viable."
A. TLA possesses its sole origins in Brighton, La Brea. In its crude, unrefined form, it is simply termed "pitch", or natural asphalt. When refined in its marketable form, it is labeled as TLA.
A. The pitch lake is not inexhaustible. It is thought to be inexhaustible because occasionally, organic matter, which previously was not there, would appear at the surface, fuelling the thought that it came from below and with it, a replenished amount of TLA. Secondly, its miraculous consistency from place to place on its surface, and over the hundreds of years of use, suggests that it has homogenized by constant motion. Thirdly, quantity surveys are conducted from time to time and, despite its rate of extract, its residue is often slightly more than that which the survey suggests that it should be.
A. The pitch lake has a coverage of approximately 100 acres at its surface.
A. At the current rate of extraction, the last quantity estimate, conducted less than a decade ago, indicated that there was over 400 years of material residing in the pitch lake.
- Crude composition
- Refined composition
A. Composition of crude asphalt:
Mineral Content: 28-40%
Mineral Content: 35-39%
A. 'Penetration', as applied to the asphalt industry, is generally a measure of the hardness or softness of a bituminous binder. Laboratory equipment is used to test a sample of every batch of TLA that can only be delivered if it lives up to a certain penetration. Along with penetration, other parameters are simultaneously delivered.
A. By blending in varying proportions, or by mixing with softer (higher penetration) or harder (lower penetration) bitumen, a wide array of ASTM-designated TLA penetrations can be delivered. The TLA component of the blend remains untampered and uncompromised.
A. Crude asphalt is surface mined and then bucketed in large metal bins close to the lake. It is then mechanically hoisted up to the refinery almost 100 meters uphill, where it is dumped into stills and heated by superheated steam until it is molten, where after extraneous matter is filtered before the TLA is tested, then drummed. The drummed TLA is cooled and stored until it hardens and is ready for containerizing.
A. Many local contractors have, at one time or the other, used TLA. The government of Trinidad and Tobago and in the Caribbean, the governments of St. Maarten, St. Vincent, Grenada, Barbados, Guyana, St. Lucia and Suriname have used TLA Additionally, TLA is currently exported to:
- The United Kingdom
- South Africa
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
A. The benefits of TLA include:
- Improved skid resistance
- Resistance to deformation caused by traffic
- Resistance of temperature extremities
- Resistance to rutting
- Improved shear resistance
- Significantly increased structural resistance
- Reduced deterioration to ultraviolet exposure
- Lower maintenance costs
A. In Trinidad and Tobago, TLA has been used:
- On the Piarco New Airport Terminal’s runway
- Crown Point International Airport
- The newly constructed Churchill Roosevelt Highway/Uriah Butler Highway Interchange
A. In the Caribbean, TLA has been used on the:
- Princess Julianna Airport – St. Maarten
- Grantley Adams Airport – Barbados
- Pointe Salines Airport – Grenada
- Cheedi Jagan Airport – Guyana
A. Pellets represent the next evolutionary step in the life of TLA. TLA would still be available to local contractors, or to those who prefer it, in its current form, but the pelletization of TLA would assist in its marketability by making it available in a form that is both easy to handle and more user-friendly. Local customers will not have to place just-in-time orders for TLA, but can have their limited storage of raw pellets, which are being made to be fed directly into the Hot Mix plant, while regional customers, to whom market penetration has been a perennial problem will also benefit from this modern form of TLA