-- "Gas and oil production from shale rocks has triggered a corollary boom underground as drillers demand billions of pounds of sand. The hydraulic fracturing process that has brought new hydrocarbon supplies to the US relies on massive injections of water and chemicals to break open rocks. Sand is also pumped into wells as a form of scaffolding.
Sand miners are now racing to expand operations, attracting the attention of private equity investors. One, US Silica Holdings, has disclosed plans to raise $200m through a public offering.
“It’s a gold rush,” said Thomas Dolley, mineral commodity specialist at the US Geological Survey. “Demand for ‘frac sand’ is jumping through the roof.”
In 2010, US frac sand production doubled to 13m tons as drilling activity increased and new mines opened, Mr. Dolley said. Hydraulic fracturing consumed about 40% of U.S. industrial sand output last year, up from 27% in 2009. Annual demand for frac sand has since soared further to about 22 million tons. Each drilling job can swallow up to 10 million pounds of sand."
HT: Robert Kuehl