Frac Sand

Latest News

  • PRICING NOTICE: Discontinuation of frac sand prices

    Tuesday, 19 October 2021

    Fastmarkets has today discontinued its assessments of the prices for Northern White frac sand due to a shift in demand which has reduced the traded volumes for these grades and this origin.

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Pricing News

  • Calcined alumina prices reach new high on surcharges, supply tightness

    Tuesday, 07 December 2021

    The prices for calcined alumina products rose further in early December, underpinned by suppliers’ high production costs and a perception of supply running below total demand, with some sellers resorting to shorter contracts amid the surge in costs and price volatility.

  • Soda ash market expected to face tight supply through 2022

    Tuesday, 07 December 2021

    Global soda ash markets will potentially face supply shortages due to anticipated increases in demand next year and the curbing of production capacity in China.

  • Chinese lithium carbonate prices up on tight supply, year-end restocking

    Friday, 03 December 2021

    Chinese battery-grade lithium carbonate price resumed its ascent in the week to Thursday December 2, with consumers conducting year-end restocking making steady purchases amid tight availability of spot units.

  • Andalusite price soars for 2022 supply

    Thursday, 02 December 2021

    Andalusite prices for 2022 supplies pushed upward with demand expected to exceed available output, while logistics costs and issues affecting alternative materials weighed on delivered prices into Europe, market sources told Fastmarkets in the week ended Thursday December 2.

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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.