Bitumen also referred to as Asphalt is a sticky, black and highly viscous liquid or semi-solid form of petroleum. It may be found in natural deposits or may be a refined product; it is a substance classed as a pitch. In Nigeria, bitumen typically occurs both on the surface and sub-surface. The estimated probable reserves of bitumen in Ondo State (Southwest region of Nigeria) is 16 billion barrels, while that of tar sands and heavy oil is estimated at 42 billion barrels, almost as twice the amount of existing reserves of crude petroleum.
Nigeria has the second largest deposit of bitumen in the world, spanning approximately 120km. The primary use (70%) of asphalt/bitumen is in road construction, where it is used as the glue or binder mixed with aggregate particles to create asphalt concrete. Its other main uses are for bituminous waterproofing products, including production of roofing felt and for sealing flat roofs.
When fully developed, the industry will no doubt meet not only local requirements of the substance for road construction, but also become a foreign exchange earner for the country (Nigeria). Currently, the bitumen used in Nigeria is processed from imported heavy crudes, in addition to bitumen imported to supplement local consumption. Heavy and extra heavy crude can be extracted from Nigerian tar sands, and sulphur and phenol can be derived from these crude grades.