Navigating industry changes: AAPA Member Profile

Erik Denneman Technical Manager, Puma Bitumen.

In each magazine issue, Roads & Infrastructure profiles a member of the Australian Asphalt Pavement Association. In this issue we speak to Erik Denneman, Technical Manager at Puma Bitumen.

Q: How long have you been an AAPA Member?

A: I have worked for AAPA member companies since arriving in Australia in 2012.

Q: What was the best thing about working at the association?

A: As the former Director of Technology and Leadership at AAPA, I really enjoyed working with representatives from industry and road agencies towards a common goal. It is amazing how much was achieved in the space of a couple of years through the work of volunteers from different organisations collaborating for the good of the industry as a whole.

Q: How did you start your career in the road construction industry?

A: My first experience with this industry was as an intern working as a site engineer at a medium-sized road contractor in the Netherlands.

Q: What is your biggest achievement in the industry?

A: Working together constructively with all stakeholders to bring about meaningful change. This includes supporting the introduction of crumb rubber modified asphalt and high modulus asphalt (EME2).

Q: What is your current role and what does it involve?

A: I work at Puma Bitumen as Technical Manager for the Middle East and Asia Pacific. In this role I’m responsible for driving Puma Bitumen’s commitment to new product development and innovation. This encompasses rigorous quality management and delivering industry-leading bitumen products and services.

My role involves transferring new technologies between different countries and jurisdictions to enable the faster adoption of new bitumen products. I’m also responsible for driving sustainability across the sector. For instance, leading the introduction of crumb rubber from waste tyres as an elastomer in bitumen.

Another example of this is introducing high-performance materials such as EME2. By producing higher performance solutions, we can look towards introducing thinner, more sustainable roads that are also more cost-effective for the industry. I’m excited to work with an established global team of technical experts who, like me, are focused on developing solutions to industry challenges

Q: What is the best thing about your current role?

A: It is a really exciting time at Puma. We are working on a whole suite of new products for the industry – watch this space.

Q: What is a recent change you have seen in the industry and how are you/the company prepared for that?

A: To reduce global shipping emissions, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will implement a 0.50 per cent global sulphur limit for marine fuels from 1 January 2020, replacing the existing 3.5 per cent limit. This has already created a huge shake-up for both the shipping and the refinery industry and has been called the largest ever change in the oil market.

The global refinery industry needs to meet this surge in demand for gas oil/distillates and also manage the lost demand for high-sulphur fuel oil – and the onwards supply chain. Currently many refineries, especially the ones with simple configurations, direct residues to fuel oil, bitumen or base oil for lubricants production. Due to the mandated IMO regulation, there are three approaches refiners may take.

The first is that some refineries may decide to invest and upgrade their facilities in order to produce more low-sulphur products. This will enable them to meet an increase in demand for ultra-low-sulphur fuel oil, but is both time and capital intensive. Others may change crude feedstocks to sweeter crudes which have naturally lower sulphur content. This might structurally change the sweet-sour crude price differentials.

Lastly, some refineries will have to sell more of the heavy products, including bitumen. This could put the quality of bitumen at risk as more residual streams are directed into bitumen production. Due to our unique global set-up, we are able to manage the impact of IMO 2020 on the quality and supply of bitumen to our customers.

Q: Are there any regulation or specification changes you think should be implemented in Australia?

A: Yes, firstly, we need national harmonised specifications for the delivery of all bituminous products. This will greatly benefit the robustness of specification, create cost efficiencies and reduce uncertainty across the board.

Secondly, we should move away from the paradigm where Australia continues to invent its own unique test methods where international alternatives exist. Changing this will benefit knowledge sharing and very importantly the robustness of the test methods and links to field performance.

Q: What are some of the latest developments you noticed at the AAPA Conference?

A: The dominant topic at the conference was of course circular economy and the great story our industry has to tell in this space. It was more pronounced this year than ever before.

Q: What is your most memorable experience from being part of the AAPA team?

A: AAPA’s 2017 conference. We changed the conference format somewhat and put more emphasis on the exhibition and peer review of conference papers. I like to think this has contributed to the success of both the 2017 and 2019 conferences.

Q: What do you think has been AAPA’s biggest achievement for industry?

A: AAPA is the custodian of a great knowledge base built up by members working in collaboration for over 50 years. It contains guides, papers, health and safety notes, training materials and a range of other valuable resources. I think that knowledge sharing underpins the trajectory of this industry and its interaction with client bodies.

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