With Increased Fracking Comes A West Texas Sand Mining Boom

In addition to lots of water, hydraulic fracturing requires very fine sand. Once trucked in from the Midwest, sand for fracking is now being mined in West Texas.

By Alexandra HartApril 17, 2017 4:26 pm

As oil drilling in the Permian Basin rebounds, so do the industries that support it. One of these has been particularly lucrative lately, especially in Texas.

Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData, says the sand mining business is booming in the dunes of West Texas.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses water and chemicals to burrow under the earth, splitting rocks and releasing oil or natural gas. But the fracking process also requires sand, and lots of it.

‘[This] is not just the sand that you find on the beach, it’s much more durable and it’s about 1 or 2 millimeters thick,” Smith says. “It’s basically there just to prop open these tiny little gaps to then let the oil and gas escape.”

The type of sand used to operate fracking wells often comes from mines in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and elsewhere in the Midwest. But Smith says the cost of transportation has caused people to start mining for the resource right here in Texas.

“There’s more demand for it as the fracking boom has kind of surged again in Texas and industry leaders are seeing this as an opportunity,” Smith says.

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– What environmental consequences might result from sand mining

– How much sand we’re talking about

– Whether sand a finite resource


Written by Morgan O’Hanlon.

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