Q: What is “fracking” and “frac sand?”
A: “Fracking” is short for “hydraulic fracturing.” It’s a practice that involves suspending specialized sand in fluid and injecting it into oil and gas wells under high pressure. The fluid pressure creates new fractures in the well which opens and enlarges existing fractures that allow access to previously unreachable oil and gas reserves. Sand grains in the fluid (known as frac sands) are deposited in these fractures and prop them open after the water is pumped out. Fracking has been shown to increase the production of an oil or natural gas well by 50% or more, which contributes greatly to goal of American energy independence.
Q: Will sand mining have an environmental impact?
A: Yes, but every human enterprise has some environmental impact. Among the environmental impacts frac sand operations try to minimize are:
- Effects from truck traffic — trucking sand from the mining site to a processing center can create noise, traffic that deteriorates roadways, and vehicle emissions. AllEnergy Sand has completely removed this environmental impact. Our operation will use a conveyor belt, not trucks, to move raw material from mine to processing center. (Learn more about our lower-carbon-footprint approach here.)
- Noise — It’s impossible to operate a mine without machinery operation noise and perhaps some small blasting. AllEnergy Sand has removed the noise of a truck fleet, however. We anticipate the noise of our operation will be minimal, especially when compared to other industrial activities.
- Water Use — Frac sand processing uses about 2 million gallons of water to wash the sand, the vast majority of which is recycled throughout the day. A typical frac sand processing plant actually consumes about 18,000 gallons of water a day. As a comparison, a large-scale dairy uses about 20,000 to 50,000 gallons of water a day, depending upon the weather. A center-pivot irrigation system can use nearly 250,000 gallons of water in a day. Compared to other industries, fracking’s water consumption is relatively low.
Q: Can sand mines be reclaimed into other uses?
A: Yes. Mines can and are reclaimed as agricultural land. Studies show such areas can reach 73-97% of original yields within three years of reclamation. They can also be reclaimed as natural areas.
Q: Does sand mining produce acid mine drainage?
Q: Is frac sand mining a danger to the water table?
A: No. Typically, frac sand operations mine to within five feet above the water table.
Q: Is there a danger that the process of fracking can contaminate underground water supplies?
A: No, not when standard safeguards are followed. Fracking often involves deep drilling, 10,000 to 15,000 feet deep. That’s far below the aquifer, which is typically at about 300 feet. Before fracking starts, a steel pipe encased in cement is laid through the well. The system ensures that hydraulic fracturing only happens at the target area, not at other points along the long well bore. The fracking mixture (water and sand), as well as the released oil or natural gas, are sucked back up through the pipe, filtered and stored in tanks. Some of the frac sand stays in the well propping open the fractures. Some of the liquid is reused and some is disposed of at regulated disposal centers.
Q: Does frac sand mining increase the incidence of silicosis?
A: There is no scientifically proven evidence that it does. Silicosis a disabling, often fatal, lung disease caused by breathing dust with very small particles of respirable crystalline silica. Silicosis is definitely an occupational risk for mine workers, which is why AllEnergy Sand employees will have all the proper, OSHA-approved safety equipment at all times and follow best practices for safety, just as workers in other dusty industries such as coal mining and grain handling do.
But there is no evidence that frac sand mining or fracking itself cause an increase public risk for silicosis or any other respiratory issue. A rash of class action cases filed between 2004 and 2006 that claimed fracking increased silicosis were each dismissed for lack of evidence.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ranks the cause for crystalline silica emissions:
Mining and quarrying – 1%
Wind erosion – 10%
Driving unpaved roads – 33%
Driving paved roads 18%
Construction – 23%
Agricultural tillage – 15%
Q: Besides fracking, what is silica used for?
A: Silica is another name for sand, and sand is one of the most common substances on earth. It’s used for:
- Glass Making
- Metal Casting
- Metal Production
- Chemical Production
- Paint and Coatings
- Ceramics and Refractories
- Filtration and Water Production
- Oil and Gas Recovery
- Recreational Products
Silica is even used as an inactive ingredient in some drugs.
Q: Does fracking really have a net positive impact on energy production?
A: Yes. Fracking can increase the production of an oil and natural gas well by up to 50%, especially in deeper shale deposits that are difficult to access using traditional drilling methods. In 2000, such shale beds provided just 1% of America’s natural gas supply. Today, that figure stands at nearly 25% primarily due to the use of fracking.
Q: Is fracking new?
A: No. Hydraulic fracturing technology has been used in the United States since 1947. More than 1.2 million oil and natural gas wells have undergone fracture stimulation since the technology was first introduced in Kansas. Its use has become more prevalent as the market price, cost to produce and available supply of oil and gas has made fracking a more economically viable option.
Q: Is fracking the answer to America’s energy concerns?
A: Not the entire answer, but a significant part of it. Achieving American energy independence will require contributions from many fuel sources including oil, natural gas, biofuels, solar, wind and emerging technologies, along with improvements in energy conservation and efficiency.
Q: What areas do you provide service to? In other words, what does your service area cover?
A: We take pride in our product and we want as many people to have access to it as possible, and a large service area means a far reach. Our service area covers all of North America, but because we use railroads to transport our frac and silica sand, the states we have the easiest access to include Ohio, Texas, North Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Montana. We also reach into Canada. The reason we use the railroads is because it increases efficiency, reduces per-ton costs, and eliminates delays and extra expenses caused by adverse winter road conditions. It also lessens our carbon emissions and noise pollution because we don’t use a fleet of trucks.