Those not involved in the oil and gas industries may not be familiar with frac sand, but it's worth knowing a little about the material. Here's an overview of what it is, what it's used for and why it's so in demand.
Unless you're a professional in the oil and natural gas industries, you'd be forgiven for not being familiar with frac sand.According to Geology.com, frac sand is high-purity quartz sand that features durable, round grains. Other sources state that frac sand, often referred to as a proppant, can be man-made, as in the case of sand industrially coated with resin. Ceramic crystals have also been highlighted as suitable proppants. In the US, the American Petroleum Institute is in charge of setting frac sand specifications. Sand is evaluated based on: geology, grain size, crush resistance, solubility, turbidity, sphericity and roundness. Unsuitable sand is separated from that used for fracking and typically sold for other needs. What is frac sand for? Accessing oil and gas within rock can be difficult due to a lack of interconnected pore spaces or pore spaces that are too small. However, hydraulic fracturing solves this problem through the process of creating fractures in the rock and pumping water into it, as per Geology.com. The water is treated with chemicals and thickeners that allow it to carry grains of frac sand into the fractures. But why pump frac sand into the rock in the first place? Because it continues to prop open fractures after the water is turned off and allows drillers to access the oil and gas within — hence the name proppant. Where does frac sand originate? Citing data from the US Geological Survey, Well Servicing Magazine states that the US is the world's leading producer of industrial sand and gravel, including frac sand. While sand deposits from Ohio and Virginia to Pennsylvania and Michigan have been mined for the material, Well Servicing Magazine states the best frac sand can be found in Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas. However, frac sand cannot be used straight out of the ground, according to Geology.com. It must be processed at special plants. First the sand is stacked in piles to let the wash water drain off. After the sand is drained, it is placed in an air dryer to remove moisture, and finally dry grains are screened for specific sizes.