By Bailey Hildebrand-Russell
A naturally-derived deicing product is offering government departments and snow and ice removal companies an environmentally-friendly option to deal with slippery roads in Canada.
Beet 55, an anti-freezing and deicing agent derived from leftover sugar beet molasses after the by-product’s edible sugars have been removed, has been around in North America for a while. Inventor Todd A. Bloomer applied for the patent in 1999. Smith Fertilizer and Grain in Iowa has been one of the product’s distributors since 2000, with president Max Smith holding a license to sell it. Smith said, like most inventions, it was discovered by accident as the sugar beet industry was looking to be less wasteful.
“As in any company that makes any product today there’s always other products that come with it and the object of the game is to find value for those other products so that they can overall cheapen the products that they make,” Smith said.
“So they just kept experimenting as they went through this process and they found that when they mixed a salt product with this material, that it would lower the freeze point of the product and it would work in colder temperatures.”
Smith said the results led to further development the product that not only lowered the freeze point of salt materials but also reduced highway corrosion by 30 to 50 per cent. This also meant it was less harsh on bridges and even vehicles.
LuGr Enterprises Inc. introduced Beet 55, its flagship product, to the Alberta and Saskatchewan markets in 2014. Owner Luke Grayston started the company in spring of that year after hearing about the deicer and how it works.
“The organic component of it helps salt brine do its job better. Traditional salt brine is effective on snow and ice up to about -12 C in ideal conditions. The beet portion of the product helps the salt work to a much lower temperature.”
Grayston said Beet 55 doesn’t give off heat in an exothermic reactionary way like calcium chloride does. Instead, it disrupts the bonding of snow and ice crystals, which in turn keeps them in a liquid state and allows for runoff and evaporation.
Not only can Beet 55 be used after snow has covered roads, but Grayston said it can also be used prior to snowfall.
“The sugar beet component helps it tack to the road. Depending on traffic conditions, the road surface type, the temperature and humidity, you can put it down up to several days in advance and it can be there before a storm. When used in an anti-icing capacity, it’s a proactive product, versus how the industry for many years, one could say, was reactive where you had to wait for the weather event and snow to accumulate to combat snow and ice.”
In the United States and Canada, associations and government departments are beginning to recognize the benefits of using Beet 55. The Pacific Northwest Snowfighters’ association has placed it under Category A3 on its qualified product listing as a corrosion inhibitor for sodium chloride. With the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation, Beet 55 is listed as an approved anti-icing and deicing agent, while Alberta Transportation considers it a trial product. Grayston said the sugar beet-based deicer comes in three formats — a mix that can be applied directly to the road, liquid concentrate and stockpile treatment (pre-wet capacity).
Beet 55 not only fares well in colder temperatures, but the stickiness of the molasses makes it stick to roadways longer, along with salt and sand.
“Our product can be used with existing sand and salt stockpile so that the granules stay in the lane longer and do their job,” Grayston said. “You may have noticed when you drive and the roads have been sanded, if you come by not too long after the sander is gone, tires on vehicles have basically kicked it out of where people need it the most, which is not necessarily effective. Our product helps those granules stay in the lane longer.”
Treated sand and salt also helps the granules stay put longer by reducing the bounce and scatter when applied to the road by a sanding truck.
On top of the immediate benefits of using Beet 55, offering a more environmentally-friendly product to the Canadian market is important, Grayston said.
“I believe in the product, and how I came to find out how such a product existed, it was curious to me as to why companies hadn’t embraced such a technology prior to. It has gained quite a bit of traction in the United States and it is taking off here in Canada, but finding out it wasn’t being used abundantly in the prairies, and it wasn’t being used here in Alberta or Saskatchewan was fascinating to me that nobody else was on it.”
As for Smith, he said he’s excited to make roads safer for future generations, adding that a few of his 16 grandchildren work evening and nighttime hours, which keeps them on the roads in the dark.
“We’re a 24-7 society today and it really makes me feel good that there’s a product out there that you can put on the roads that keep the roads safe at night so that these young people, and older people, can continue to drive in the dark hours of the night and feel that they have a safe road to drive on.”
For more information on LuGr Enterprises and Beet 55 in Canada, visit lugrenterprises.com.
For more information on Smith Fertilizer and Grain, visit sfgiowa.com/beet-55.