US demand for asphalt is forecast to increase 3.3 percent annually to 26.8 million tons in 2019, according to a new report. This is equivalent to 148.0 million barrels of asphalt, the vast majority of which is refined petroleum asphalt.

According to the report, Asphalt to 2019, published by Freedonia Group, asphalt demand will be spurred by a rebound in building construction expenditures, which will boost demand for asphalt shingles and such bituminous low-slope roofing products as modified bitumen membranes.

In the much larger asphalt paving segment, gains will be supported by the efforts of state and local governments to maintain the nation's aging road and highway network. Legislative bodies are expected to allocate more funds for repair and rehabilitation work, supporting the usage of asphalt cements and asphalt emulsions. But the dominant paving segment faces budget constraints.

Paving accounted for the largest end use for asphalt in 2014 with 74 percent of consumption. However, demand for asphalt in paving applications in that year was far below that of 2004.

Many transportation construction departments reduced funding for infrastructure projects as tax revenues fell during the Great Recession. Funding levels remained low between 2009 and 2014 due to state and local budget concerns and hesitance about raising taxes to fund infrastructure projects.

Through 2019, demand for asphalt in paving applications is forecast to advance 3.1 percent per annum to 19.6 million tons. Improving economic conditions and the need to fix and repair older roads and highways will support growth.

However, more rapid advances will be checked by concerns about excessive government spending among state and local legislative bodies that will be reluctant to commit the funds necessary for large-scale highway and road construction programs.

Growth in asphalt emulsions to pace paving products Among asphalt paving products, asphalt emulsions will exhibit the fastest growth in demand through 2019, boosted by increasing interest in in-place recycling. Asphalt emulsions can be used to recycle older pavements while minimizing asphalt consumption, thus reducing the time and cost of paving jobs.

However, asphalt cement will remain the leading paving material used in the US due to the prevalence of hot-mix and warm-mix asphalts in paving jobs because of those products' moderate cost and favorable performance properties, such as durability and good drainage.

Roofing will benefit from strong housing starts . Demand for asphalt used to make roofing and other building construction products is forecast to rise 3.7 percent annually to 7.2 million tons in 2019, stimulated by rebounding building construction expenditures.

Strong growth in housing starts will boost demand for asphalt shingles, as will a more favorable environment that will encourage homeowners to replace older or worn roofing with more durable and aesthetically pleasing laminated asphalt shingles.

In the non-residential segment, the large base of structures with installed bituminous low-slope roofing will support re roofing demand.  

Through 2019, refined asphalt production is forecast to rise 3.3 percent per year to 141.2 million barrels, fueled by a rebound in demand as paving activity and building construction spending grow. However, the ongoing shift in domestic crude oil production from heavy crudes — most suitable for processing into asphalt — to light crudes will continue to restrain growth in asphalt production.