Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Natural-gas boom begets frac-sand boom in Wis.

The boom in natural gas drilling has caused a boom in one type of sand mining. Round silica sand is used in the process of hydraulic fracturing to hold open rock fractures so gas can be released. The sand boom is perhaps at its height in west-central Wisconsin, the largest producer of "frac sand" in the U.S.

There are no official employment figures for the frac-sand industry, but Kate Prengaman of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism used job-site estimates to calculate that when current and proposed mines are fully operational, the industry will employ about 2,780 people. The number of permitted and proposed frac-sand mines has doubled to 106 since last year, but sand isn't "instant money," Prengaman reports. It's expensive to transport, and local officials are charging sand companies for wear and tear on roads. The state Department of Transportation estimates the industry could produce about 50 million tons of sand a year, Prengaman reports.

Some residents are concerned sand mining will hurt air and water quality, local infrastructure and tourism. They have mounted protests and lawsuits to combat alleged wrongdoing by the industry. Local officials and industry representatives say sand mining will help local economies and increase jobs, echoing local battles in other parts of the country surrounding gas drilling. (Read more)

1 comment:

plumbing said...

Natural gas provides a competitive alternative to coal for electricity generation, especially under policies that impose costs on higher-carbon fuels. Natural gas is providing the United States with an enormous economic advantage as a result of American ingenuity.