Silica sand demand in North America is forecast to expand 5.1 percent per year through 2020 to 82.8 million metric tons, according to World Industrial Silica Sand, a new study from The Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industry research firm.
This will represent a somewhat slower pace than that recorded during the 2010-2015 period. Low oil and gas prices into the near term will depress the number of new wells drilled through 2020, limiting opportunities for frac sand suppliers. Nevertheless, increasing intensity of use per well will fuel robust growth in silica sand consumption, making it the fastest growing market in North America into the long term.
Demand for industrial sand in building product applications will record healthy advances through 2020, fueled by a rebound in bituminous roofing demand as the U.S. construction industry continues to recover from the effects of the Great Recession. According to analyst Zoe Biller, “Gains in the chemicals and flat glass markets will both increase at a steady pace.”
Less robust increases will be recorded in the container glass market, dampened by glass’ declining share of the packaging market, as well as by the widespread use of recycled glass (cullet) in glass container manufacture. The worst performance is expected in other, smaller applications. This will be due to the declining use of sand as a blasting abrasive because of the health concerns associated with worker exposure to silica dust.
In 2015, silica sand production in North America accounted for 28 percent of world output, making it the second largest regional supplier after the Asia/Pacific region. Most trade is intraregional, with silica sand moving from the United States to Canada and Mexico.