Proppants from clays

By Emma Hughes
Published: Friday, 21 December 2012

Texas-based Brownwood Clay Holdings LLC (BCH) has developed a new technology for producing ceramic proppant material using natural mineral clay resources found near oil and gas shale plays in Texas.

Texas-based Brownwood Clay Holdings LLC (BCH) has developed a new technology for producing ceramic proppant material using natural mineral clay resources found near oil and gas shale plays in Texas.

The technology, used to manufacture ceramic proppant materials comprised of natural mineral clays, is expected to significantly reduce the transportation costs and increase the availability in Texas of ceramic proppants, which can be used in the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process in Texas.

“The limited availability of ceramic proppant manufactured in the US and the expense of transporting it from other countries negatively affects oil and gas operators,” Gary Davis, co-operating manager of Brownwood Clay Holdings, explained.

“By using select clay as the significant constituent material in our formulations - which is naturally occurring near shale plays around the world and more effective than sand - we’ve created a way for oil and gas companies to achieve the same results in conductivity, permeability and crush resistance achieved by other ceramic proppants, without the cost or production delays associated with shipping proppant from distant locations,” he added.

BCH has been working in partnership with proppant consultants OPF Enterprises to create and test various formulations of the ceramic proppant, which is produced with predominately natural mineral clay resources available near oil and gas shale plays.

Third-party testing, conducted by US-based companies Stim-Lab, Inc. and PropTester Inc., concluded that BCH proppants performs favourably to frac sand and performs comparably to kaolin or bauxite-based ceramic proppants.

Filling in the cracks

BCH’s work in creating a new, locally sourced, proppant material began in 2010. The company then partnered with the ceramic manufacturing experts at On the Plant Floor (OPF) Enterprises and invested in more than two years of research and development, resulting in Brownwood establishing a Houston-based laboratory in January 2012.

Additional core testing by the Bishop Materials Laboratory at Clemson University completed earlier this year on BCH’s Texas land holdings confirmed a 1.65km2 deposit containing more than 100m tonnes of inferred clay mineral resources of several classifications.

BCH and OPF have now successfully converted the globally-available mineral clays into lightweight ceramic proppants, which have been shown through third-party testing to meet the American Petroleum Institute’s published specifications as well as demonstrating the strength and uniformity of kaolin- and bauxite-based products.

BCH is currently offering manufacturers, operators, mineral owners and other investors an opportunity to license or acquire their proprietary formulations and clay mineral resources.