City Council votes in favour of using super-heated bitumen to keep Calgary snow-free

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Snow Free Calgary initiative to commence fall 2019

CALGARY, Alberta – The City of Calgary has reached a tentative deal to acquire a 784 gigatonne supply of bitumen from the hamlet of Fort McMurray. The city’s Neighbourhood Maintenance Division is planning to use the oily-sandy substance to keep neighbourhoods snow-free and to the roads dry and grippy. The deal will see bitumen commence delivery in Calgary on November 25th right through to March 31st, 2020.

Billy Britecock, Fort McMurray’s head of bitumen planning, has been exploring strategic alternatives for land-locked bitumen for a number of years now seeing as operators cannot sell the stuff for what it’s really worth.

Billy Britecock

“We first considered using it to pave school playgrounds and to build industrial sized sticky sand boxes, but the parents got all up in a tizzy. So we figured, hey, if the City of Calgary can spend over $25M on a foot bridge that is 100m away from an existing bridge, and $330K per year to store clam shell plastic containers, then they probably have money to buy-up some bitumen. One quick phone call to the City Manager and they were sold!” – Billy britecock, WITH fORT mCmURRAY BITUMEN HEAD

Here’s how it is supposed to work. The City of Calgary plans to spend $36M to purchase 6 Caterpillar 797 dump trucks to go fetch the stuff in a cycle that will see one dump truck delivery every 30 hours. According to sophisticated computer models built by the City’s engineering team, the bitumen will have to be heated to precisely 140C for maximum effectiveness. Once heated, the bitumen will be dumped in a series of piles in abandoned parks throughout the city. The idea is that the bitumen, at 140C, will continue a slow burn thanks to its 560 BTU*Tonne*m^2 thermal momentum that will generate enough heat energy to keep temperatures hovering at around 15 to 18C day or night from November through to March.

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“You see, at those temperatures, snow likes to become water, and that water can flow away and be happy! And as a positive side effect, little particles of sand will work their way through onto the streets to provide extra traction for vehicles. What’s more is that the vast majority of that sand will make its way into the Bow and Elbow rivers creating beaches that will improve our city’s recreation services,” said the Snow-Free Calgary Project Manager, Cindy Shuttles, P.Geo.

Despite the City creating at least 15 jobs with this initiative, and projecting to save $17M in snow removal costs in 2019/2020 alone, there are some residents that believe the idea’s cons outweigh its pros. But only time will tell how well the idea will be received.

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