Economic Impacts of Industrial Silica Sand (Frac Sand) Mining
At a Glance
Industrial silica sand has been mined across the United States for more than a century. Until recently, this sand was used primarily for glassmaking, cores for molding metal castings at foundries, metal production, feedstock for household and industrial cleaners, and construction supplies such as concrete. A small share of the sand was used for hydraulic fracturing, a technique used in oil and natural gas production.
Over the past few decades, as oil and natural gas production from conventional fields declined, energy producers developed techniques combining hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Now commonly known collectively as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” those techniques are being used to increase oil and natural gas recovery in rock formations such as shale and tight sandstones that had previously been too expensive to develop. The process consists of injecting water, sand, and trace amounts of chemical additives into these rock formations to break apart the rock, allowing the oil and natural gas to flow freely up to the surface.