We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Bitumen?

By Klaus Strasser
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
About Mechanics is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At About Mechanics, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Bitumen may refer to either a naturally occurring mixture of various organic liquids, also called crude bitumen, or a residue yielded in the distillation process of coal or petroleum, called refined bitumen. It is a brown-black, extremely viscous, tar-like material that was the first oil product utilized by humans because of its adhesive and cohesive properties. Its principle contemporary usage is in the paving of roads. In North America, it is referred to as asphalt.

Crude bitumen can be found as a solid or semi-solid material, and consists mostly of hydrocarbons. Its formation can be traced to the decomposition of organisms deep within the Earth’s crust, where they were affected by intense pressure and heat. This process produced materials such as bitumen. Natural deposits can be found all over the world, with the largest located in Canada and Venezuela.

Historical usages of bitumen can be traced back 8,000 years with its presence in various Neanderthal tools. Human usages of this material are dated as far back as 5000 BC. Its ancient origin can also be seen in what is believed to be the source of the name, from the ancient Sanskrit term "jatu" and "jatu-krit," meaning "pitch" and "pitch creating" respectively, a reference to tree resin pitch.

Bitumen use varies according to geographical and societal contexts; however, it was historically employed for tasks such as water-proofing, building construction, and the composition of more complex tools that required some binding element. It was also believed that it was used in the mummification process in Ancient Egypt, serving as a type of preservative. While this claim has been disputed, the term mummy is derived from the Arabic term for bitumen, "mumiye."

Natural deposits of of this substance are too low for present human consumption and demand. Thus, the majority is produced through a fractional distillation processes. Refined bitumen is made from crude petroleum oils, and has been produced in this manner since the late 19th century. The heating of crude oil produces a residue, which is then used to manufacture various grades of bitumen. More recent advancements have led to its production from non-petroleum sources such as corn, rice, and molasses starches.

The construction industry uses 85% of bitumen for the binding of asphalt within roads, while 10% is applied for roofing. It has proved a valuable material because of its resistance to the elements.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
About Mechanics, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

About Mechanics, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.