Asphalt shortage halts roadwork
A shipment May 31 should ease the pinch felt since Chevron quit producing ingredients
Asphalt to repair or pave roads could be available early next month, but the question is whether it will be enough to meet demand, says Janette Mukai, Tesoro Hawaii spokeswoman.
A shipment of asphalt-producing crude oil is due to arrive May 31, and the company expects to have more liquid asphalt for its customers by June 2 or 3, Mukai said yesterday.
But that supply might not be enough, she said.
Mukai said Tesoro is not producing liquid asphalt, used with other materials to make asphalt for roads, at the moment because it does not have the kind of crude oil used to make it.
Chevron Hawaii, which had the lion's share of the market, stopped producing it. Mukai said Tesoro used up its supply to meet the demand, and the new batch of crude might not be enough because the order was placed before Chevron indicated it is no longer producing liquid asphalt locally, Mukai said.
She said during the week of April 10, Chevron notified Tesoro it is getting out of the liquid asphalt-producing business in Hawaii. "It came as a surprise," she said.
On April 12, Mukai said, Tesoro exhausted its supply of liquid asphalt.
Chevron stopped producing liquid asphalt late last year when it switched to a lighter type of crude oil, said Albert Chee, Chevron Hawaii spokesman. He said the company switched because the federal government is requiring refiners to produce gasoline and diesel that have a lower sulfur content.
Tesoro officials estimate the demand for liquid asphalt in Hawaii is about 45,000 barrels per month. Mukai said Tesoro has traditionally had 30 percent to 40 percent of the market. Even if it increases production, its storage capacity is only 25,000 barrels, Mukai said.
Liquid asphalt is mixed with aggregate to make road asphalt.
Contractors Grace Pacific and James W. Glover Ltd. are the two major suppliers of road asphalt in Hawaii.
The shortage will put 160 Grace Pacific employees out of work, said Bob Wilkinson, company president and chief executive officer. "We're going to shut down," he said.
The company will help all of the affected employees and tailor its assistance to their individual needs, Wilkinson said. Some employees might be able to take vacation for the duration of the work stoppage. And he said the company will offer all of them no-interest loans that can be paid back with vacation.
Grace Pacific has three facilities that mix road asphalt on Oahu and one each on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island. Its customers include the military, the state and the city.
James W. Glover has three facilities for mixing road asphalt on the Big Island and one each on Oahu and Kauai.
The shortage is affecting several ongoing state road resurfacing projects and could delay others that are scheduled to begin soon, said Scott Ishikawa, state Department of Transportation spokesman.
And the city is suspending its pothole repairs.
Road Builders Corp. gets road asphalt from both Grace Pacific and Glover for projects that include paving subdivision parking lots. Next week, it is scheduled to begin paving 10,000 square yards at Schofield Barracks for the new Stryker Brigade.
"We got a lot of upset customers," said Erik Rhienlander, company operations manager.