Fly ash proppant testing validates LWP’s technology

By Kasia Patel
Published: Monday, 18 July 2016

Superior proppant qualities demonstrated, with low cost tech and lower transportation distances ideal for market downturn.

Independent tests on ASX-listed LWP’s fly ash proppants have shown superior crush resistant k-values and specific gravity compared to mined silica (frac) sand, the company said.

LWP said that tests undertaken by US expert testing lab DEL have validated the company’s technology – ceramic proppants made from a mixture of less than 10% bauxite and fly ash waste materials – and shown the competitive cost advantages of using its products.

The company pointed to the current low price environment for oil and gas, which is driving a focus on shallow wells that enable oil and gas firms to extract hydrocarbons using cheaper mined frac sand. Ceramic proppants are generally more expensive than sand owing to energy-intensive production methods, although they are better suited for deeper wells.

"LWP is fortunate in that its technology can be adjusted to serve both the low cost market segment requiring lower compressive strength, as well as the high compressive strength segment," LWP said.

Highlights from the testing include bulk density at 8-10% lighter than mined frac sand, superior sphericity and roundness compared to most mined sand and a specific gravity (SG) of 1.52, which represents a 40% reduction compared with frac sand.

Frac sand is often imported into Australia from the US, resulting in high transport and logistics costs. Lower transportation distances also mean a lower likelihood of degradation and fines, which are limited to 10% by American Petroleum Institute (API) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards.

In July 2015, LWP announced that it had entered into a joint venture (JV) agreement with Indian ceramic proppants manufacturer Hallmark Minerals Pvt Ltd for the production of its fly ash-based proppants in Maharashtra, India.

Oilfield Minerals News in Brief

Emerge Energy to focus on sand

US-based silica sand miner and processor Emerge Energy Services LP is selling its motor fuels division to Sunoco LP for $178.5m as it reverts its focus back to the silica sand business.

Profits from the sale will be used to reduce Emerge Energy’s outstanding debt as the company seeks to revamp its tight financial situation.

Suppliers of silica (frac) sand to the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) sector have had a challenging past year, as falling oil and gas prices dampened the expansion of shale operations, affecting demand and prices for sand. In Q3 2015, Emerge sold 30% less sand at 799,000 short tons (724,841 tonnes), and recorded a 37% drop in revenues, to $60.7m.

Emerge Energy operates its sand segment through its subsidiary Superior Silica Sands LLC, supplying Northern White sands to the fracking sector in North America. Its sand facilities are in Wisconsin (New Auburn and Barron County) and Texas (Kosse and Fort Worth).

The divestiture of the fuel operation is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to be completed during the third quarter of this year.

US court rejects fracking rules 

A court in the US state of Wyoming has ruled that the US Bureau of Land Management does not have the authority to set national rules on fracking, rejecting regulation proposals brought forward by the Obama administration.

The decision is the latest hurdle that Washington has to face as it seeks to bring about a comprehensive regulatory framework for the fracking industry in the country.

"The court […] finds that the Bureau of Land Management lacked congressional authority to promulgate the regulations," the ruling by judge Scott Skavdahl of the District Court of Wyoming read. "The court holds the fracking rule is unlawful."

Early last year, the US Department of
the Interior had tasked its Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to draft new standards
to regulate fracking operations on federal land nation-wide. The BLM is the main body
in charge of administering and managing public lands and their resources across the US.

The government aimed to update existing regulation framework following the sharp increase in fracking activity in the country leading up to 2012 and the subsequent changes in technology and materials applied by operators.

Another main objective was to stem public concerns over the environmental effects of the contentious practice as part of Obama’s legacy as he approaches the end of his second term as US president.

The Wyoming court has now quelled the viability of the Bureau’s proposals.

"Congress has not delegated to the Department of Interior the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing. The BLM’s effort to do so through the Tracking Rule is in excess of its statutory authority and contrary to law," the ruling read.

In a separate development, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled in June against the discharge of wastewater from unconventional oil and gas wells into publicly-owned treatment works (POTWs).

Generally, operators do not tend to send wastewater to POTWs but rather inject it underground, reuse or recycle it.

US Silica expands sand reserves

US Silica has increased the ore reserves at its disposal with the purchase of additional land next to its silica sand mine and plant in Ottawa, Illinois, US.

The acquisition of the 327-acre (4,047km2) area is aimed at increasing production of silica sand. Estimates suggest the newly-bought land hosts some 30m tonnes ore reserves, which would be processed into coarse, medium and fine sand grades.

The value of the transaction was not revealed.

From its Ottawa processing plant, US Silica serves end-use markets such as glassmaking, construction, chemicals and fracking (proppants).

Solvay develops oil recovery tech

Solvay Group has teamed up with Abu Dhabi-based Petroleum Institute University and Research Center (PI) to develop oil recovery technology for local oilfield applications.

PI will set up a laboratory in Abu Dhabi that will focus on chemical enhanced oil recovery (EOR) applications, replicating technologies already in place in Solvay’s other research facilities.

Thomas J Hochstettler, president of the Petroleum Institute, said: "The PI is reinforcing previous efforts in EOR research particularly in the domains of chemical EOR, hybrid EOR and conformance processes."

The applications will be tailored to the needs of Abu Dhabi’s oil fields. The state’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) is currently working to reach a target of 70% oil recovery — a goal that Solvay’s vice-president David Sorin described as "ambitious".

It is understood that Solvay’s EOR applications will be put into action at ADNOC’s oilfields.

"We believe this partnership will help accelerate the deployment of EOR technology in Abu Dhabi’s challenging oil fields, and will support ADNOC in materialising its ambitious 70% recovery target," Sorin stated.

Graphene NanoChem secures supply to Myanmar’s oilfields

Graphene NanoChem’s PlatSurF is a graphene-based nano-emulsion fluid used in oil and gas drilling to remove residues, unblock passages and improve flow during extraction.

The company has secured a deal to supply PlatSurF to an oil and gas explorer in Myanmar, which is running a two-year drilling programme of 16-18 wells.

The first commercial order received for the Myanmar Drilling Programme, valued at $198, 864, will be deployed for use in four wells in the coming months.