Cornwall to try using beet juice to de-ice roads and save money

24 Jan 2020 12:03 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)

Cornwall’s roads department is planning to try using beet juice to keep the city’s roads ice-free as a way to cut down on the amount of road salt it uses.

Road salt prices have skyrocketed over the past two years due to major production disruptions in 2018. The world’s largest underground salt mine in Goderich, Ont., had a 12-week strike while another mine in Ohio had several of its shafts flooded around the same time.

The market still has not recovered, and road salt prices are 30 per cent higher than they were last year. Because of these prices, municipalities in Canada and the United States have been trying out alternative to ease their winter-control budgets. Part of that solution? Sugar beet juice.

Just like how salt lowers the melting point of ice, the sugars in the beet juice have a similar effect. The beet juice is actually a kind of molasses produced as a waste product from sugar refinement. It can be mixed with water and some salt and sprayed on roads.

It has been used in other municipalities with success, similar to other wet-application sprays, or de-icers— though many of these are brines of some sort, which still require salt.

The City of Cornwall’s acting-division manager of municipal works, Paul Rochon, says the plan is to run a trial with the beet juice this winter to see just how well it works.

“We are just waiting for some colder temperatures; we want to try it out when it’s good and cold outside. We’ve been very fortunate this year to have such mild temperatures so far this winter, but when the cold does come we will put it down on one of our major roads,” said Rochon. “We will let everyone know where we are trying.”

Currently, Cornwall sprays its road salt with a calcium-chloride or magnesium-chloride solution while it is being spread on the roads to maximize the salt’s effectiveness. This is done after the snow has already fallen.

The beet juice, in contrast, is sprayed on roads before a storm and works by preventing the ice from being able to bond to the road. The benefit of this is that the juice is non-corrosive to cars and spaying it down beforehand means that the city should need less salt to de-ice the roads after a storm.

The beet juice is slightly more expensive the calcium-chloride or magnesium-chloride solutions, but the key question will be if it is effective enough to save money in salt costs.

“Some studies have proven that we can use less salt, which is very expensive. So we are going to give it a test trial this year,” said Rochon.

The trial will cost about only a few thousand dollars, the money for which will come out of the department’s current operating budget.

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