Looking for Fracturing Sand That is Cheap and Local
- Stephen Rassenfoss (JPT Emerging Technology Senior Editor)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- May 2019
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 32 - 36
- 2019. Copyright is held partially by SPE. Contact SPE for permission to use material from this document.
- 1 in the last 30 days
- 74 since 2007
- Show more detail
- View rights & permissions
|SPE Member Price:||Free|
|SPE Non-Member Price:||USD 17.00|
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.
“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.
Vista’s biggest mine, which is near Fort Worth, Texas, delivers grains ranging from mid-sized (40/70) to unusually small grains that it calls 200 mesh, via its logistics network to customers in Texas and Oklahoma. Vista also has in-basin mines in the Permian Basin, it is building its first mine in Oklahoma, and it is looking for a location for a mine in the Eagle Ford, said Chris Favors, vice president for business relations at Vista.
In the South Texas play, the competition includes mines selling low-cost options. such as 40/140. This product contains most of the finer grain sand dug up from local pits, with processing to remove clay and fine dirt.
The approach is more like the original river sand mined for the first fractures rather than products sold with grains within the strict size limits set by API standards. Gillespie describes his sand as a “coarse 100 mesh.” It mixes some larger grains with 100-mesh sand.
ConocoPhillips has long experience in the Eagle Ford and has done extensive testing there to evaluate completions, including one of the only research projects that collected core samples of fractured rock around a well (URTeC 2670034). Based on its well performance analysis, it is open to offers on new proppant specifications.
|File Size||4 MB||Number of Pages||5|