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[NTC2016-SU-R-08] Carbon Credit Estimation Tool for Sustainable Pavement Projects

Qingbin Cui, Lei Zhang
University of Maryland
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With the support of Maryland Industrial Partnerships Programs, the University of Maryland, in collaboration with Global Resource Recyclers, Inc., developed a life-cycle analysis methodology to quantify the carbon emissions reductions from the use of recycled materials in pavement construction. The research showed the use of cold recycling techniques can reduce carbon emissions by up to 84% compared to the most conservative estimate of emissions from Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA). When compared to HMA mix designs with less than 30% of reclaimed asphalt pavement, the emission reductions from recycling techniques will be much higher.

The analysis results also show a great business opportunity for low-carbon material producers to label their green products and potentially generate carbon credits from production and construction. Currently, HMA is still the primary material in highway construction and is used in 90% of the 2 million miles paved roadways in the US. The US Environmental Protection Agency (2013) estimated HMA production emits over 50 million tons of CO2e every year. As an acceptable alternative to HMA, Foam Stabilized Base (FSB) is produced with a cold recycling method but offers roughly equivalent structural performance and better environmental benefits. Even with a 20% market share, FSB producers will be able to achieve an emission reduction ranging from 1.6 to 6.7 million tons of CO2e every year, the equivalent of GHG emissions from 0.3 to 1.3 million cars every year. If these emission reductions can be quantified into carbon credits for trading, FSB producers will open up another multi-million revenue source beyond direct FSB sales.