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U.S. Geological Survey Details Industrial Sand Production

The U.S. Geological Survey announced in its 2020 Mineral Commodity Summaries publication that U.S. mines produced approximately $86.3 billion in minerals in 2019 – more than $2 billion higher than revised 2018 production totals.

In 2019, industrial sand and gravel valued at about $5.7 billion was produced by about 191 companies from 308 operations in 35 states. The value of production of industrial sand and gravel in 2019 decreased by 17% compared with that of the previous year, owing primarily to reduced demand for hydraulic-fracturing sand. The likely cause was decreased activity in the oil and gas sector during the year.

Leading producing states were Wisconsin, Texas, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Mississippi, North Carolina, Iowa and Louisiana, in descending order of tonnage produced. Combined production from these states accounted for 85% of the domestic total.

About 73% of the U.S. tonnage was used as hydraulic-fracturing sand and well-packing and cementing sand; as glassmaking sand and other whole-grain silica, 7% each; as foundry sand, 3%; as ceramics, other ground silica, and whole-grain fillers for building products, 2% each; and recreational sand, 1%. Abrasives, chemicals, fillers, filtration sand, metallurgical flux, roofing granules, silica gravel, and traction sand, combined, accounted for the remaining 3% of industrial sand and gravel end uses.

U.S. apparent consumption of industrial sand and gravel was estimated to be 100 million tons in 2019, a 13% decrease from that of the previous year. Decreased oil and gas drilling in North America and oil well completion activity triggered a corresponding decrease in the production of hydraulic-fracturing sand in 2019 compared with that of the previous year.

However, in any given year, more efficient hydraulic-fracturing techniques, which require more silica sand use per well (mostly for secondary recovery at mature wells) along with lower unit cost compared with other proppants, tends to maintain demand for hydraulic-fracturing sand.

Imports of industrial sand and gravel in 2019 were about 390,000 tons – nearly the same as those of 2018. 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 decreased by about 10% in 2019 compared with those of 2018.

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