In May 1922 a Canadian-born Scottish chemist, Hugh Alan McKay, filed arevolutionary patent for the Cold Spray process, which was the firstgenuinely usable bitumen emulsion..
Asphalt Cold Mix Limited was immediately set up in order to use theemulsion on roads, and the exclusive licence for France was awarded tothe Société Générale d’Entreprise in July 1924.
Between the wars, France urgently needed to pave its huge road networkin order to prevent rapid deterioration and combat the harmful effectsof dust. Black products (first made using tar, later using artificialbitumen) satisfied the two requirements of quality and price.
Bitumen emulsion was tremendously successful very soon, under the name of Colas,which was an abbreviation of COLd Asphalt, and a merger with the RoyalDutch Shell Ltd was necessary to finance this development, which led tothe creation of a joint subsidiary, which was given the name of Société Routière Colas.
The Company JF Humarau & Cie, which was set up nearBordeaux in 1898 after a quarter of a century of involvement inchemicals, from the selling of creosote to the distillation of coal tarand taking in the production of carbolic acid, became the Société Chimique de la Gironde.From 1924 the new company became interested in the highways industryoffering road tars, for example Compotar, to the French RoadConstruction and Maintenance Departments.
The first bitumen emulsions were designed in 1926 and given the nameCompolize; The first 600 tonnes of this material were produced for theAude Département Road Construction and Maintenance Department, and in1928 more than ten production units were set up.
In the 1930s, the industrial sites were transformed into centres forroadworks, and construction rapidly became the core activity of the Société Chimique et Routière de la Gironde which was set up in November 1936.
In the 1860s and 1870s, at Saint Martin d'Hères in the Département ofIsère, Pierre and Alphonse Brun set up a flourishing business producinggrain, straw, hay and, above all, biscuits.
They were among the first to use steam tractors to transport hay, butsoon realized that their machines were under-used during the offseason, and turned them into road rollers.
This was how in 1874 the “Etablissements Brun” were awarded their first road rolling contract in Isère.
The firm rapidly established a presence in more than fortyDépartements, with more than 250 road rollers and benefited from atechnological advance with the development in 1911 of Bitulithe, whichwas one of the first bound bituminous surfacings. The EtablissementsBrun became so large that Gaëtan Brun decided to separate the differentactivities, leading to the setting up, in 1920 of a specific roadrolling company, the Société Anonyme pour la Construction et l'Entretien des Routes.
By looking at their factories, coating plants and worksites, we inviteyou to explore the history of these three companies who werecompetitors for decades but which merged in the 1990s to form the Colasgroup.