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Looking for Fracturing Sand That Is Cheap and Local

Source: Black Mountain Sand.
Trucks wait to be loaded at Black Mountain Sand’s mine in Kermit, Texas.

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Proppant buyers insist on the “lowest cost for an appropriate sand.” That assessment was offered by Hayden ­Gillespie, president and chief operating officer of Black Mountain Sand, one of the mining companies that has driven down sand prices by building sand mines within a couple of hours’ drive from where it is used.

Cheap sand is easy to find in the Permian Basin, where regional sand mines have glutted the market. Nearby suppliers have an unbeatable price advantage over distant mines, which not long ago produced most of the sand used for propping fractures.

Appropriate is harder to define. The rules are changing as customers try new mixes of sand size and find that production data does not support many of the old standards.

In the Eagle Ford, oil companies are using sand size ranges that stretch the traditional API size specifications beyond recognition (Fig. 1). Rather than using old standards such as 40/70 mesh—the biggest grains must fit through a screen of 40 wires per inch, and the smallest cannot go through a screen of 70 wires per inch—they are using 40/140, where minimal sifting is required. Fracturing sand buyers still have needs, but they vary.

Fig. 1—Grains of sand sold for proppant fall within set size limits. Source: ISM.

 

“I believe until all the companies are merged into one there will be different ideas” about how to get the most out of the local geology, said Mike Fleet, executive vice president for mining operations for Vista Proppant and Logistics.

The challenge for proppant suppliers is matching customer desires with the sand they mine.   

“Vista has a hand-in-hand relationship with our customers,” Fleet said. The goal is to give them what they need, but “we can only do what mother nature puts in the ground,” he said.

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Looking for Fracturing Sand That Is Cheap and Local

Stephen Rassenfoss, JPT Emerging Technology Editor

01 May 2019

Volume: 71 | Issue: 5

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