Industrial Sand Production Rose 33 Percent in 2017

In 2017, U.S. apparent consumption of industrial sand and gravel was 100 million tons, a 33 percent increase from the previous year, owing primarily to increased activity in the oil and gas sector. Production – valued at about $3.5 billion – was produced by about 200 companies from 340 operations in 35 States, according to USGS Mineral Commodity Specialist Thomas Dolley.

The value of production of industrial sand and gravel in 2017 increased by 32 percent compared to the previous year, owing primarily to increased activity in the oil and gas sector.

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

Mine output was sufficient to accommodate many uses, which included abrasives, ceramics, chemicals, fillers (ground and whole grain), glassmaking sand, filtration sand for swimming pools, foundry sand, other ground silica, recreational sand, roofing granules and fillers, and sand for well packing and cementing.

About 63 percent of the U.S. tonnage was used as hydraulic-fracturing sand and well-packing and cementing sand; 10 percent as other whole-grain silica; 10 percent as glassmaking sand; 6 percent as foundry sand; 3 percent as whole-grain fillers and building products; 2 percent, each, as other ground silica, and recreational sand; 1 percent as ground and unground sand for chemicals; and 3 percent for other uses.

Increased oil and gas drilling in North America and completion activity triggered a corresponding increase in the production of hydraulic-fracturing sand in 2017 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 2017 increased by 10 percent to about 310,000 tons from 281,000 tons in 2016. 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 – exports of industrial sand and gravel increased by 87 percent in 2017 compared with those of 2016.

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