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USGS: Industrial Sand Production, Consumption Rise


The U.S. Geological Survey released its 2019 Mineral Commodity Summaries report. In 2018, industrial sand and gravel valued at about $6.2 billion was produced by about 191 companies from 321 operations in 35 states.

The value of production of industrial sand and gravel in 2018 increased by 22 percent compared with that of the previous year, and by 130 percent compared with 2016, owing primarily to increased demand for hydraulic-fracturing sand for the oil and gas sector.

U.S. apparent consumption of industrial sand and gravel was an estimated 110 million tons in 2018, a 13 percent increase from that of the previous year, owing primarily to increased activity in the oil and gas sector.

Leading states were Wisconsin, Texas, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Mississippi, Iowa and Arkansas, in order of tonnage produced. Combined production from these states accounted for 87 percent of the domestic total.

About 73 percent of the U.S. tonnage was used as frac sand and well-packing and cementing sand; as glassmaking sand and other whole-grain silica, 7 percent each; as foundry sand, 4 percent; as other ground silica, and whole-grain fillers and building products, 2 percent each; as ground and unground sand for chemicals, filtration sand, and recreational sand, 1 percent each; and for other uses, 2 percent.

Increased oil and gas drilling in North America and oil well completion activity triggered a corresponding increase in the production of frac sand in 2018 compared with that of the previous year.

More efficient hydraulic-fracturing techniques, which require more silica sand use per well (mostly for secondary recovery at mature wells) also led to increased demand for hydraulic-fracturing sand. Imports of industrial sand and gravel in 2018 were about 370,000 tons – essentially unchanged from those of 2017.

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). The United States remains a net exporter of industrial sand and gravel; U.S. exports of industrial sand and gravel increased by 50 percent in 2018 compared with those of 2017.