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Frac Sand

Latest News

  • Hi-Crush ups capacity through expansion and acquisition

    Thursday, 23 March 2017

    In addition to the acquisition of new frac sand facilities, the US-frac sand producer is on track with its 3m tpa expansion in the Permian Basin, due to come online later this year.

  • DW forecasts higher oil and gas spending as US shale recovers

    Tuesday, 21 March 2017

    Consultancy firm Douglas Westwood has revised its forecast for onshore expenditure to 2021 as improvements in US shale activity are expected to drive investment in rigs and rig equipment.

  • Proppant pricing "unsustainable" low: Fairmount Santrol

    Friday, 10 March 2017

    The US frac silica sand producer reported a loss in the last quarter of 2016 despite higher revenues and volumes y-o-y. While Fairmount noted an uptick in prices in Q4 and in early 2017, the company added that proppant prices still stand at unsustainably low levels.

  • US Senate repeals BLM Planning 2.0 rule

    Wednesday, 08 March 2017

    The rule was criticised by the oil and gas sector, which expressed concerns that planning and development of resources would become more time consuming. The repeal of the rule will now go to the US president for his signature.

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Pricing News

  • IM Graphite 2017: High supply situation in graphite to continue

    Friday, 24 March 2017

    Overcapacity is still affecting the global graphite market as growth in supply has been exceeding growth in demand. New projects coming online could put further pressure on prices.

  • Price briefing 17-23 March

    Friday, 24 March 2017

    Lithium prices unchanged; brown fused alumina spreads widen; fluorspar continues to climb; antimony trioxide stable; chromite stand-off continues

  • BFA, bauxite deliveries may be disrupted in Q2, suppliers say

    Friday, 24 March 2017

    Some deliveries of brown fused alumina and bauxite contracts may not arrive in May and April, as a result of the ongoing production problems in China, a number of suppliers have told IM. Most European consumers are also not fully covered in the short term, and suppliers are also seeing quality issues.

  • Fluorspar prices continue to rise in China

    Friday, 24 March 2017

    Fluorspar prices have risen in China in recent weeks, taking strength from a recovery in key end markets as well some tightness in supply.

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Features

  • Junior mining: Back from the brink?

    Thursday, 26 January 2017

    Half a decade on from the collapse of the global mining boom, a rally in commodity markets last year caught many investors off guard and has created a weak but welcome tailwind for the stalled exploration industry, Rose Pengelly, IM Correspondent, finds.

  • 2016 Year in Review

    Thursday, 15 December 2016

    A round up of the year's main events in major global industrial minerals markets such as lithium, agriminerals, rare earths and titanium dioxide.

  • Oilfield minerals: Drums in the deep

    Monday, 18 July 2016

    High volatility in energy prices shook commodity markets over the past year, with oil taking a dive headfirst to lows that had not been reached for over a decade. This had negative consequences for oilfield service operators as well as mineral suppliers, who saw demand and prices falling for proppants and barite, while bentonite was, to an extent, spared.

  • When the lights go out

    Monday, 18 July 2016

    At its peak in 2008, oil (WTI) was trading at $140/bbl, which in turn pushed up the price of natural gas. The high price of fuel prompted investment in alternative energy supply, with countries looking to become self-sufficient, at least in part. Now, Cameron Perks, IM Correspondent, details how Australia has moved to diversify its supply mix and what this means for oilfield mineral markets.

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Market Brief

 

What is frac sand?

Silica sand or ‘frac sand’ is a durable, round grain, crush-resistant material produced for use in the hydraulic fracturing process (otherwise known as ‘fracking’). This process is used to gather energy sources, such as oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids from underground rock units that lack adequate pore space for these fluids to flow into a well.

How is frac sand used?

Some subsurface rock units, such as organic shale, contain large amounts of oil, natural gas or natural gas liquids that will not flow freely because the rock either lacks permeability or the pore spaces in the rock are so small that these fluids cannot flow through them.

Hydraulic fracturing solves this problem by generating fractures in the rock. This is done by drilling a well into the rock, sealing the portion of the well in the petroleum-bearing zone, and pumping a mixture of water, silica (frac) sand and chemicals under high pressure into that portion of the well.

The chemical in the water creates a viscous gel which in turn facilitates the water's ability to carry grains of frac sand in suspension. Billions of frac sand grains are carried deep into the fractures made by this pumping action. Over one million pounds of frac sand can be used to stimulate a single well.

Where is it found?

Frac sand can be found all over the world, with sizable reserves in Italy, Australia, Turkey and Germany (see pie chart on this page). The world’s largest producer of frac sand is the US, where more than 49m tonnes was produced in 2012.

A few years ago producers in Wisconsin and Texas were supplying much of the frac sand used by the oil and gas industry. However, a huge spike in demand caused by the natural gas and shale oil boom has motivated many companies to provide this product.

Frac sand producing companies are located in the central part of the US where the St. Peter Sandstone and similar rock units are close to the surface and easily excavated yet much of the frac sand used for the oilfields is found in the Marcellus Shale, Utica Shale, Bakken Formation, Haynesville Shale, Fayetteville Shale, Eagle Ford Shale and Barnett Shale.

Who is using it?

There are many end uses for silica sand including abrasives, filtration, foundry, glassmaking and silicon metal applications. The specifications for each use differ, but silica resources for most uses are abundant.

The demand for frac sand has risen sharply in the last few years in response to numerous shale plays developing in many parts of the US. Most major silica sand producers increased production capacity as a direct result of the hydraulic fracturing boom.

Who is producing frac sand?

Major frac sand plays include:
US Silica
Preferred Sands
Fairmount Minerals
Mississippi Sand
Superior Silica
Smart Sand Inc.
Unimin Corp.

A schematic of a typical hydraulic fracturing operation, showing surface equipment and services and subsurface fracking.