Not All Frac Sand is Created Equal

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Courtesy of Fairmount Santrol

Frac sand is the most commonly used proppant. The term “proppant” is used because it literally props open fractures enabling the oil or gas to flow out. Without proppant, there is no hydraulic fracturing, and without hydraulic fracturing there is no opening or stimulation of tight oil and gas plays.

E&P (exploration and production) companies pump proppants based on various characteristics with the most important one being the proppant permeability-conductivity. Proppant permeability is a measure of how readily or not fluid (hydrocarbons in general) can travel through the proppant pack, and is a measure of “fluid friction” within the proppant pack. Baseline conductivity is the most widely used test to compare performance of proppants. It is calculated by multiplying the proppant permeability with the width of the fracture.

Frac Sand Today
Tudor Pickering predicts that the amount of frac sand used per horizontal well will jump from an average of 8 million pounds in 2016 to 11 million pounds in 2017. Some of the major US Shale producers are already ramping up sand use exponentially more by employing the “mega-frac” approach in order to substantially increase the number of fractures in the hydrocarbon-bearing rock. Some operators have already pumped up to 30 million pounds per horizontal well, and are planning for even higher sand volume per well in 2017.

Northern White Sand
The best frac sand on a global basis is found in the Upper Mid-West of US, and is called Northern White sand. This type of frac sand is known for its combined high conductivity and crush strength, and also high sphericity and purity. Northern White sand is Premium Tier I and is mono-crystalline, over 99.6% pure quartz; unlike Tier II frac sands.

High permeability (conductivity) is a major benefit for using Premium Tier I frac sand. Other important properties include crush resistance, sphericity and roundness, acid solubility and turbidity, properties that we’ll detail in future blog posts.

Fairmount Santrol is proud to operate several mines in the upper Midwest, which produce Tier I Northern White sand, as well as operate a sand mine in Brady Texas, which produces Texas Gold®, a high quality brown type sand. Interested in getting the best frac sand to your basin? Contact our team today.

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