Fracking Creates Hot Commodity: Sand

Industry looking to gobble 95M pounds this year

By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 5, 2014 2:20 PM CDT

(Newser) – The demand for sand is booming, and while you'll find it in cell phones and solar panels, the real beast driving up prices is the rather controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, which mixes sand with water and chemicals and pumps it underground to force out natural gas. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the fracking industry is a behemoth consumer, expected to gobble some 95 billion pounds of sand this year alone; that's up 30% over 2013 and a 50% hike over a forecast from just last year.

If those numbers aren't big enough—it can take 4 million pounds to "frack" one well—the industry is looking to use even more, having found that extra sand can drive up oil and gas yields by 30%. All that translates into 5% to 10% price increases before the end of the year, with one manufacturer predicting increases more in the 10% to 20% range. "There's really no limit on the demand side," says an expert. Where the limit comes in: Even though manufacturers are scrambling to put in new sand mines, they're facing tighter reins and more regulation amid public outcry over the dust, traffic, and potential breathing problems such operations create. Click for the full story.

This file photo shows a machine mixing sand and water before it is pumped underground during a fracking operation near Mead, Colo.
This file photo shows a machine mixing sand and water before it is pumped underground during a fracking operation near Mead, Colo.   (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)
A truck drives south on US Highway 85 near Buffalo, SD. Truckers use this route to carry pipe, fracking sand, and other supplies to the oil fields in North Dakota.
A truck drives south on US Highway 85 near Buffalo, SD. Truckers use this route to carry pipe, fracking sand, and other supplies to the oil fields in North Dakota.   (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)
In this March 25, 2014 photo, a worker climbs down from a machine that mixes sand and water, left, before it is pumped underground.
In this March 25, 2014 photo, a worker climbs down from a machine that mixes sand and water, left, before it is pumped underground.   (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this March 2012 file photo rail cars are seen near a pile of silica sand dubbed Mount Frac in Winona, Minn.
In this March 2012 file photo rail cars are seen near a pile of silica sand dubbed "Mount Frac" in Winona, Minn.   (AP Photo/Minnesota Public Radio, Elizabeth Baier, File)
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