Follow The Sand To The Real Fracking Boom

By James Stafford | Posted: Wednesday, November 26, 2014 12:04 pm

When it takes up to four million pounds of sand to frack a single well, it’s no wonder that demand is outpacing supply and frack sand producers are becoming the biggest behind-the-scenes beneficiaries of the American oil and gas boom.

Demand is exploding for “frac sand”–a durable, high-purity quartz sand used to help produce petroleum fluids and prop up man-made fractures in shale rock formations through which oil and gas flows—turning this segment into the top driver of value in the shale revolution.

“One of the major players in Eagle Ford is saying they’re short 6 million tons of 100 mesh alone in 2014 and they don’t know where to get it. And that’s just one player,” Rasool Mohammad, President and CEO of Select Sands Corporation told

Frack sand exponentially increases the return on investment for a well, and oil and gas companies are expected to use some 95 billion pounds of frack sand this year, up nearly 30% from 2013 and up 50% from forecasts made just last year.

Pushing demand up is the trend for wider, shorter fracs, which require twice as much sand. The practice of downspacing—or decreasing the space between wells—means a dramatic increase in the amount of frac sand used. The industry has gone from drilling four wells per square mile to up to 16 using shorter, wider fracs. In the process, they have found that the more tightly spaced wells do not reduce production from surrounding wells.

This all puts frac sand in the drivers’ seat of the next phase of the American oil boom, and it’s a commodity that has already seen its price increase up to 20% over the past year alone.

Frac sand is poised for even more significant gains over the immediate term, with long-term contracts locking in a lucrative future as exploration and production companies experiment with using even more sand per well.

Pioneer Natural Resources Inc. says the output of wells is up to 30% higher when they are blasted with more sand.

Citing RBC Capital Markets, The Wall Street Journal noted that approximately one-fifth of onshore wells are now being fracked with extra sand, while the trend could spread to 80% of all shale wells.

Oilfield services giants such as Halliburton Co. and Baker Hughes Inc. are stockpiling sand now, hoping to shield themselves from rising costs of the high-demand product, according to a recent Reuters report. They’re also buying more sand under contract—a trend that will lead to more long-term contracts and a longer-term boost for frac sand producers.

In this environment, the new game is about quality and location.

Frac sand extraction could spread to a dozen US states that have largely untapped sand deposits, but the biggest winners will be the biggest deposits that are positioned closest to major shale plays such as Eagle Ford, the Permian Basin, Barnett, Haynesville and the Tuscaloosa marine shale play.

The state of Wisconsin has been a major frac sand venue, with over 100 sand mines, loading and processing facilities permitted as of 2013, compared to only five sand mines and five processing plants in 2010.

But with the surge in demand for this product, companies are looking a bit closer to shale center to cut down on transportation costs and improve the bottom line.

One of the hottest new frac sand venues is in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains, which is not only closer by half to the major shale plays, saving at least 25% per ton on transportation costs, but also allows for year-round production that will fill the gap in shortages when winter prevents mining in northern states.

“In the southern US, we can operate year round, so there is no fear of a polar vortex like that we saw last year with some other producers,” says Mohammad of Select Sands, which has two known producing frac sand mines in northeastern Arkansas, in the Ozark Mountains, and sells the bulk of its frac sand to producers in the Eagle Ford, Barnett and Haynesville shales, as well as in the new marine shale, Tuscaloosa.

Chicago-based consulting company Professional Logistics Group Inc. found in 2012 that transportation represented 58% of the cost of frac sand, while Select Sands estimates the costs between 66-75% today.

The competition is stiff, but this game is still unfolding, while increased demand is reshaping the playing field.

US Silica Holdings Inc. says demand for its own volumes of sand could double or triple in the next five years, and its three publicly-traded rivals—Emerge Energy Services Fairmount Santrol and Hi-Crush Partners have also made strong Wall Street debuts over the past two years.



Waterless Fracking Could Be Industry Game Changer

By Andrew Topf | Posted: Tuesday, November 18, 2014 2:55 pm

One of the biggest complaints levelled at the energy industry when it comes to fracking involves the amount of water used in the process of cracking open layers of shale rock to free trapped oil and gas.

With an average frack well requiring about 2 million gallons of water, operators are under increasing pressure to limit their usage, and some jurisdictions have suspended water withdrawals to cope with low water levels in their watersheds, the result of low rainfall and higher-than-normal temperatures.

But what if something other than water could be used alongside sand and chemicals to break apart the layers of shale? While the industry has often used nitrogen and carbon dioxide (CO2) in so-called “energized” or “foamed” frack fluids to reduce water usage, recent research has focused on the use of C02 to completely eliminate water used in fracking.

Earlier this year, GE announced that it will allocate an additional $10 billion through 2020 to its “ecoimagination” budget, part of which will go towards investigating the viability of water-less fracking. GE, a major oil and gas industry supplier, will partner with Norway’s Statoil to investigate the use of carbon dioxide in frack wells. The two companies are hoping to find a way to collect CO2 at the wellhead, recycle it and then use it to frack again, repeatedly. In contrast, water can only be used once in a frack because it becomes contaminated with chemicals – creating another problem of how to dispose of all that wastewater.

The CO2 would be in a chilled form known as a “super-critical fluid” that is neither solid nor liquid. A major challenge is determining the right viscosity for the CO2, in order that it can do the job that water does now, of carrying proppant sand crucial for creating fissures in the shale rock. There is also the issue of how to transport CO2, a compressible gas, in large quantities for use in frack wells that are far from pipelines.

Waterless fracking has been tried before, but so far, has not been adopted in any meaningful way by the industry. In the 1990s a company called Canadian FracMaster proved that it could produce more oil and natural gas by fracking with CO2 instead of water, because CO2 fracks occur at higher temperatures. However, the research was still-born when the company went bankrupt.

Other companies are experimenting with the technique, but have been met with limited success. Ferus Inc. has a technology that separates CO2 from post-fractured natural gas wells, which the company says can eliminate frack water while also stopping the use of flaring. While the technology has been used in Oklahoma, northern Texas and Wyoming on more than 100 wells, producers in Western Canada have been slow to embrace it, according to an article in Oilweek. That’s because operators think that switching to CO2 will cost more.

Another company, Calgary-based GASFRAC Energy Services, introduced a water-less fracking technology back in 2008 featuring propane. But like Ferus, GASFRAC found its technology was a hard sell to operators whose margins are predicated on using low-cost water, or “slickwater” as it’s known in the fracking industry.

One promising technique comes from Praxair, the largest industrial gas company in the Americas, which recently launched its DryFrac waterless fracking technology using liquid CO2. DryFrac mixes CO2 with the proppant before introducing it to the formation, and the company says it can separate the CO2 returned from the well after fracking. The method is being tested in a sandstone formation in Oklahoma.

“The results are still coming in, but right now it is safe to say that when we pumped the job we were able to fracture the formation with carbon dioxide, we were able to place sand, or proppant, into the formation and now we are getting very nice results in terms of oil production,” a senior Praxair manager was quoted in the latest issue of New Technology magazine.

In the oil industry, money talks, so if water-less fracking can improve productivity, there is a good chance the industry will move faster to adopt it. In conventional fracking, the frack water that stays in the formation can block the flow of natural gas, therefore slowing down production and decreasing the amount it can produce over its lifetime. In contrast, using CO2 allows the natural gas to flow more freely and results in a better network of fractures, according to a research paper mentioned in a 2013 edition of MIT Technology Review.

While an industry-wide shift to waterless fracking is likely years away, as GE’s water-less fracking project leader has admitted, the technology is a good one for energy investors to have on their radar. Unpredictable weather patterns and droughts will continue having an impact on water supplies needed for fracking. Companies that show promise in developing alternative and environmentally-friendly methods of fracking are likely to be rewarded by the market and may even receive support from governments whose citizens would almost certainly get behind ways to conserve precious water supplies.

Reprinted with permission, The original article can be found at

HICKS: ‘Frack Nation’ Digs Up The Not-So-Scary Truth

By Marybeth Hicks


When it comes to 21st-century environmental and energy debates, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Especially when what little knowledge you may have is incorrect. And most especially when it could be a lie.

That’s the conclusion of documentary filmmakers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer, who are on a quest to shed some light – and truth – on the subject of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. They are producing a feature-length film called “Frack Nation” that looks at the process of fracking in an effort to combat the “scaremongering” surrounding this safe and useful method of energy production.

If all you have is a little knowledge about fracking, you may believe this method of extracting natural gas from the ground causes environmental and health risks, and therefore should be banned. In fact, you would be unlikely to come to any other conclusion since 2010 when the movie “Gasland” was released, in which producer Josh Fox portrayed fracking as an evil and dangerous practice.

But like much of the environmentalist propaganda that passes for hard science, it turns out Fox’s conclusions about the dangers and impact of fracking are misleading. McElhinney says “Gasland” was misrepresentative, and plans to investigate the health claims surrounding the process to reveal the startling lack of scientific evidence to substantiate them.

“Frack Nation” also will tell the human story of hope and opportunity for people in hard-hit regions of the nation whose lives can be transformed by the ability to use fracking to produce natural gas. Areas such as upstate New York, western Pennsylvania and North Dakota could be promising sources of natural gas if landowners can use fracking to tap reserves deep under the ground.

“It is incredibly important that we tell this story and we tell this story right,” Ms. McElhinney said. “It is disheartening to meet people in upstate New York – farmers who are not able to hang on to the family farm – because of elites who want to take away an extraordinary opportunity for people living in counties where the average salary is less than $20,000 per year. How dare they?”

Because of “Gasland” and the hype about the supposed dangers of fracking, Ms. McElhinney said, state and local environmental policies are hindering landowners’ abilities to tap the energy resources under their properties, eliminating the economic benefits for individuals and families and impeding domestic energy growth.

The filmmakers of “Frack Nation” say the issue isn’t about just energy or the environment, but about personal freedom.

“America is the only nation on the face of the planet where if you own land, you own the mineral rights underneath your land,” she said. “No other country allows this. This is important, and we have to be willing to fight for it.”

To finance the film and involve everyday citizens in the fight to promote the right to engage in fracking, Ms. McElhinney and Mr. McAleer launched a “crowdfunding” effort at to collect contributions of as little as $1 from individuals who will be named as executive producers of the film. After nine days, they raised more than $50,000 of their $150,000 goal, with more than 600 donors.

“When they learn about the injustice of the environmental propaganda that’s out there, people think there’s nothing they can do,” Ms. McElhinney said. “The enviros are going to frame the debate and declare that the science is settled. But it’s not settled and there is something you can do. You can help us to tell the truth.

“Some people say, ‘There’s all kinds of truth.’ That’s wrong. There’s all kinds of opinion. There isn’t all kinds of truth. There’s just the truth.”

Marybeth Hicks is the author of “Don’t Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid: Confronting the Left’s Assault on Our Families, Faith and Freedom.” Find her on the Web at This article originally appeared in The Washington Times,  ©The Washington Times. Reprinted with permission.

Blackfeet Sign Letter of Intent For Treatment Of “Frack” Water

A well in Glacier County undergoes hydraulic fracturing. Sun Times photo by Darryl L. Flowers
Ecosphere Technologies, Inc. a diversified water engineering, technology licensing and environmental services company, today announced that the Company, its majority-owned subsidiary, Ecosphere Energy Services LLC, and its sub-licensee, Hydrozonix LLC (collectively, the “Ecosphere Partners”) have signed a Letter of Commitment with the Blackfeet Nation to provide Ecosphere’s Ozonix water treatment services to oil and gas companies conducting hydraulic fracturing (“fracking” or “fracing”) operations on the 3,000 square mile Blackfeet reservation in Montana. Ecosphere Partners will be the exclusive provider of water treatment services on the Blackfeet reservation.

The Ecosphere-Blackfeet commitment will make available to operators a non-chemical approach for treating and reusing 100% of their flowback and produced waters on the reservation. Use of Ecosphere’s Ozonix technology will not only help preserve the Blackfeet Nation’s water resources, but also eliminate the need to truck wastewater to disposal sites off reservation, thereby improving the economics of shale oil and gas exploration on the reservation. This exclusive services agreement is part of a broad effort by the Blackfeet Nation to sustainably develop their heritage lands, bring jobs to tribal members and improve the economic well-being of the tribe.

“We chose to partner with Ecosphere and Hydrozonix after spending significant time and effort evaluating all available water treatment technologies in the market,” said Grinnell Day Chief, Oil and Gas Manager for the Blackfeet Tribe. “We have visited the frac sites where Ecosphere is replacing traditional chemicals with Ozonix for its customers and recycling 100% of their waters. By providing the oil and gas companies operating on our land with access to this environmentally sound and cost-effective technology, we are reinforcing our commitment to improving the quality of life for our people through economic development of our energy resources while also preserving our vital natural water resources for future generations.”

“Partnering with the Blackfeet Nation to assist the tribe in their commitment to sustainably develop their lands is totally in keeping with the Ecosphere mission to provide environmental wastewater treatment solutions across industries, nations and ecosystems. The Ozonix technology has been used by Ecosphere and our licensee, Hydrozonix LLC, to treat more than one billion gallons of water on approximately 500 oil and natural gas wells since 2008,” said Charles Vinick, Chairman and CEO of Ecosphere Technologies. “This is an important opportunity to work with the Tribe to provide jobs for their members and to help the tribe realize their development goals for profitable and environmentally responsible hydraulic fracturing operations.”

The Blackfeet reservation is located along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, bordered by Canada and Glacier National Park, between the mountains and the prairie. It is part of a sensitive and important ecosystem in northwestern Montana and is larger than the state of Delaware. The reservation stretches over 150 miles north to south and 100 miles east to west and is home to grizzly bears, black bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, lynx, elk, deer, bull trout, eight major lakes and approximately 175 miles of fishing streams.

The Blackfeet reservation sits on top of the prolific Bakken shale, a formation that has experienced a recent boom of activity in the Williston Basin (located in North Dakota and Eastern Montana). Several major oil and gas companies including Newfield Exploration, Rosetta Resources and Anschutz Exploration have all secured mineral rights from the Blackfeet Tribe and are actively drilling vertical and horizontal wells on the reservation to pursue the Southern Alberta Basin, which includes the Bakken, Three Forks, Nisku and Lodgepole formations. The Devonian-Mississippian Bakken Shale on the Blackfeet reservation is a widespread, organic-rich marine source rock that has been a known producer in the Williston Basin.

Robbie Cathey, CEO of Ecosphere Energy Services, stated, “We are excited and grateful to have the opportunity to work with the Blackfeet Nation and the oil and gas companies operating on tribal land. Ecosphere’s Ozonix process will allow operators to reuse their wastewaters and treat water in an environmentally friendly manner. It demonstrates everyone’s commitment to utilizing our natural resources and producing energy in a responsible way.”