01.02.2016

How de-icing salt gets onto our roads

Salt is found in the ocean, in saline springs and in the mountains. Millions of years ago, the salt in the mountains was also sea salt, which evaporated, leaving behind huge layers of salt. When tectonic forces caused the mountains to fold, the deposits disappeared under other layers of rock. This so-called ‘rock salt’ is extracted from salt mines and then further processed: to table salt, salt for animal feed, industrial and pharmaceutical salt or industrial salt, or just road salt, also called ‘de-icing salt’.

The SÜDSALZ GmbH salt depot at the north quay of the West Port of bayernhafen Regensburg, which holds a total of 80,000 tonnes.

De-icing salt is particularly important in winter, because it causes ice and snow to melt through a reduction in the freezing point, thereby preventing the formation of black ice. Of course, the amount of de-icing salt that is used every year depends on weather conditions. According to statistics provided by the Federal Environment Agency, over the last ten years, around 1.5 million tonnes of de-icing salt were spread on German roads on average every year. How does salt get onto our roads? It starts with salt mining. Electric blasting is used to release the rock salt from the salt deposits; it is then shovelled on to conveyor belts, crushed and ground and transported up to the surface. Once on the surface, companies such as SÜDSALZ GmbH process the salt further into the various types of salt.

Salt often comes by ship

From here, the de-icing salt is generally transported to specialised logistics service providers, who store the salt temporarily, mostly in large depots and sometimes also in silos. When delivering these bulk goods, salt companies also use environmentally friendly inland waterway transport; this is the case with the salt depot at the north quay of the West Port in bayernhafen Regensburg, which entered into service in 2006. The salt depot, which is also connected to the rail network, holds 80,000 tonnes - transhipment and operation is managed by DTU Donau- Transport- und Umschlaggesellschaft, which is based in bayernhafen Regensburg. At bayernhafen Nürnberg, in 2012, SZG Spedition Zweckstätter Hafenumschlag und Lagerei GmbH invested in the construction of new bespoke storage facilities. bayernhafen Passau also has two storage facilities suitable for de-icing salt that are used by WB Transport GmbH from Reutlingen. bayernhafen Bamberg has also had a salt depot since October 2015: It is operated by Herbst-Transporte GmbH Spedition & Logistik, which delivers the salt using its own fleet of trucks. The new depot for bulk de-icing salt holds 40,000 tonnes.

Efficient road maintenance for local authorities

The logistics service providers deliver the salt by truck on demand to the winter road maintenance departments of the city councils and local authorities, who then deploy dedicated gritting vehicles to spread the salt onto the roads. If the winter is mild, the storage depots remain full. If the winter is cold, reorders are made. Let the winter come!

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