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Minnesota Soybean Business

Creating a market: Biobased RePlay keeps road construction at bay

September-October 2022

Close your eyes and picture a world without road construction. 

It’s hard to believe that there could be a road trip without those bright orange signs threatening to throw your estimated arrival time out the window. 

But with RePlay, this fantasy could become reality. 

A road sealant product, RePlay works by penetrating the asphalt surface 3/4–1 1/4 inches to stop the oxidation process, preventing irritants like cracks and potholes. RePlay goes even further by reducing moisture penetration, which Mother Nature isn’t afraid to throw our way. Precious tax dollars can be saved by applying RePlay every three to five years, doubling the life of asphalt, and it doesn’t require re-striping. 

“This formula basically stops the oxidation in your pavement,” said Bryan Coons, sales representative for Bargen Incorporated, a RePlay distributor. “It also puts polymers down that seal it up. It’s like waxing your car, so when it rains the water will bead up and run right off, preventing moisture from getting through.” 

Because RePlay is 88% biobased and replaces petroleum oil with soybean oil, the United Soybean Board (USB) helped fund the original research that led to its creation in the early 2000s. Since then, the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) has invested checkoff dollars into promoting the product. In 2016, the Council teamed with the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) to evaluate the effectiveness of RePlay. That research showed RePlay applications outperformed chip-seal applications, thereby extending the roads’ lifespan by three to 11 years. 

“MSR&PC continues to invest in new and exciting research and development efforts because, as the world keeps changing and demand for new and innovative products increase, we want Minnesota soybean farmers to be able to profit from new markets and new opportunities,” said Mike Youngerberg, senior director of product development and commercialization at MSR&PC. “Markets don’t just happen — they’re created.” 

RePlay was the star of the show this summer, when it was applied to three miles of County Highway 14 in Becker County, where soybeans lined both sides of the road. Located near Callaway, the asphalt is only two years old, making it a prime candidate for RePlay. To have a side-by-side comparison, chip seal was applied directly across the intersection. 

“Normally, we do chip seals on our roads. So, this is something we’re going to try to see if it performs better than chip seal,” Becker County Highway Maintenance Superintendent Jona Jacobson said. “It’ll be a good comparison with them right next to each other.”.

To offset the additional expense of applying RePlay in place of traditional chip seal, MSR&PC supported the endeavor with checkoff dollars. Investing in this project also provides an opportunity to showcase RePlay’s value to other city and county officials in the state. 

“Between AURI and Minnesota Soybean, we continue to share the data that proves this product does extend the life of asphalt streets and roads beyond their original life span,” Youngerberg said. “That’s exactly why we helped with the Becker County application — so people can see how well it works in their area.” 

Energy boost 

Another MSR&PC checkoff-supported technology has influenced RePlay’s production. 

Plasma Blue, which uses high-frequency electricity to transform sustainably grown feedstocks into biodiesel (also known as soy methyl ester or SME), is a simpler, quicker and less-expensive transesterification process. Because Plasma Blue, which is owned by MSR&PC, uses technology that delivers a more complete conversion, RePlay’s manufacturer purchased the SME product made using a plasma unit. 

“At the Council, we are excited to let people know that we can link two efforts that MSR&PC has been working on for some time,” Youngerberg said. “Our Plasma Blue technology has been running at a biodiesel plant in Michigan for several months now, and they just recently sold a full transport load of their product to the people who manufacture RePlay. So we have successfully used a new technology, Plasma Blue, to create product for another new use of soy methyl esters.” 

Checkoff-funded technologies are paving the way – literally, in RePlay’s case – for more soy-based products to enter the scene. All thanks to Minnesota soybean farmers and their checkoffs. 

“The crops that I grow in my fields are being used in products to make the road that goes by my house more durable,” said Bill Zurn, a Council director and chair of the Becker/ Mahnomen County Corn and Soybean Growers. “When products like RePlay and Plasma Blue are being created, proving themselves with real results, there’s no questioning the value of investing Minnesota soybean checkoff dollars.”

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