Tank Heating Considerations for Bitumen Applications


Bitumen is a naturally occurring product that forms the basis of most modern infrastructure. From the walls of Babylon to today’s roads and highways, our society relies heavily on bitumen.

For most uses, bitumen needs to be transformed from its natural state to be useful. Heating is an essential aspect for most of its applications.

Bitumen Applications


The construction industry is the heaviest user of bitumen. The most common use is in roadways. Bitumen is the binding agent in asphalt. 70% of all asphalt is used to build roads.

The next most common application of asphalt is in roofing (10%). Bitumen is the key ingredient in roofing felt and sealing roofs. Its effectiveness as a sealant also makes for it an essential ingredient in many waterproofing products

Paints & Inks

Bituminous paint is a flexible coating solution. It’s an effective sealant and is resistant to harsh chemicals and rust. Some common uses include sealing, marine environments, and exterior metal work.

Bitumen is also used in producing high-quality inks, such as those found in newspapers and magazines. It was once also a key ingredient in developing photographs.

Other Uses

Some of the other uses of Bitumen include:

  • Soundproofing
  • Explosives
  • Shoe Soles
  • Soil Stabilization
  • Mirror Backing
  • Mildew Production

In all of these applications, heating is essential in rendering the bitumen into a useful state. In storage, tank heating keeps the product in a usable form, preventing it from turning into a waxy mixture.

Industrial Tank Heater Types

Bitumen is generally stored in tanks designed specifically for this purpose. These tanks are insulated to reduce heat loss and are usually use either direct heating or hot oil heating.

Hot oil tank heating offers indirect heating through a closed loop system. Circulation heaters provide thermal fluid heating for freeze protection and maintain viscosity. Indirect heating provides minimal wear on tank heating equipment since there’s no exposure to the chemicals.

Direct heating is the most efficient tank heating option. The heaters are immersed in the tank allowing for fast, even heat transfer. Bitumen tanks are generally closed for maximum insulation. As a result, the most common immersion heaters for this purpose are flanged and screw plug heaters. Material selection can increase resistance to harsh chemicals.


Every process is unique. As such, processes need to account for the individual considerations for Bitumen tank heating.

Power Source

One of the first considerations is the power source. For bitumen heating electricity is the ideal option. Electric industrial heaters are safer because there is no combustion. They also have greater efficiency and lower operational costs. These factors combine for a more profitable process.


Heating harsh or corrosive mediums can damage the elements. Thus reducing the efficiency and lifespan of a tank heater. To resolve this, custom sheath materials are important in bitumen heating. Inconel and Incoloy sheaths are good examples of resistant materials for bitumen tanks.


Whether an industrial process involves the extraction, application, or transformation of bitumen, transportation is an important consideration. In its natural state, bitumen has a similar consistency to peanut butter. As such, it can’t flow through pipelines without reliable heating. Tank heating helps maintain the ideal viscosity before and after transportation.

Transportation by truck or ship requires well-insulated tanks. A reliable minimum temperature threshold ensures the bitumen arrives at its destination in a usable state. Immersion heaters are the best option for this type of transportation.

These heaters are screwed or welded directly into the tank, so they are secure and reliable. They are also safe from possible external damage during transportation.

During transportation, keep in mind the climates through which the bitumen will travel. This may change the temperatures required, to prevent altering the product.

Transportation alternatives, like bitumen bricks, are being considered by some rail companies. However, most bitumen is transported in a liquid state.

Choosing The Best Tank Heater for Your Bitumen Application

Choosing the right tank heater for your bitumen application results in better reliability. As well as increasing lifespan, and efficiency. Wattco can help determine your specific needs to select the best heating solution for your process. We custom-manufacture our heaters to your exact needs, for optimal performance.

Contact us today for a quote or more information.

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