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USGS: 72 Percent of Industrial Sand Used as Frac Sand


The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has released its latest Minerals Yearbook report on industrial sand and gravel.

According to USGS, in 2016, industrial sand and gravel valued at about $4.3 billion was produced by 254 companies from 347 operations in 35 states. The value of production of industrial sand and gravel in 2016 decreased by 12 percent compared to the previous year.

Leading states were, in order of tonnage produced, Wisconsin, Illinois, Texas, Missouri, Minnesota, North Carolina, Michigan, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas.

Combined production from these states accounted for 82 percent of the domestic total. About 72 percent of the U.S. tonnage was used as frac sand, and well-packing and cementing sand; 8 percent as other whole-grain silica; 7 percent as glassmaking sand; 4 percent as foundry sand; 1 percent, each, as whole-grain fillers and building products, other ground silica, and ground and unground sand for chemicals; and 6 percent for other uses.

U.S. apparent consumption of industrial sand and gravel was 89.4 million tons in 2016, a 1 percent decrease from that of the previous year. Mine output was sufficient to accommodate many uses, which included ceramics, chemicals, container, fillers (ground and whole grain), filtration, flat and specialty glass, foundry, hydraulic fracturing and recreational uses.

Production of hydraulic-fracturing sand to support extraction of natural gas and petroleum from shale deposits continued to decline in 2016, but remained at historically high levels. New and more efficient hydraulic-fracturing techniques, which require more silica sand use per well (mostly for secondary recovery at mature wells) could stabilize demand for hydraulic-fracturing sand.

Imports of industrial sand and gravel in 2016 decreased by 3 percent to about 280,000 tons from 290,000 tons in 2015. Imports of silica are generally of two types – small shipments of very high-purity silica or a few large shipments of lower grade silica shipped only under special circumstances (for example, very low freight rates).

Although the United States remains a net exporter of industrial sand and gravel, exports of industrial sand and gravel decreased by 32 percent in 2016 compared with those of 2015.

The United States is the world’s leading producer and consumer of industrial sand and gravel based on estimated world production figures.