The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released industrial sand data as part of its latest Mineral Commodity Summaries publication. USGS reported that in 2021, industrial sand and gravel valued at an estimated $2.3 billion was produced by 167 companies from 248 operations in 33 states.
The value of production of industrial sand and gravel in 2021 increased slightly compared with that in the previous year. The leading producing states were, in descending order of production, Texas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Louisiana, North Carolina, Alabama, California, Tennessee, New Jersey and Minnesota.
Combined production from these states accounted for about 86% of total domestic sales and use. Approximately 64% of the U.S. tonnage was used as hydraulic-fracturing sand and well-packing and cementing sand; 11% as other whole-grain silica; and 10% as glassmaking sand.
Other uses were, in decreasing quantity of use, foundry sand, whole-grain fillers for building products, recreational sand, other ground silica sand and silica gravel, which accounted for 12%, combined.
Other minor uses were, in decreasing quantity of use, chemicals, abrasives, filtration sand, ceramics, roofing granules, fillers, traction and metallurgic flux, combined, which 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 67 million tons in 2021, a slight increase from that of the previous year. The most important driving force in the industrial sand and gravel industry remained the production and sale of hydraulic-fracturing sand (frac sand).
For several years, the consumption of frac sand increased as hydrocarbon exploration in the United States transitioned to natural gas and petroleum extracted from shale deposits. However, industrial sand and gravel consumption decreased in recent years, primarily as a result of decreased natural-gas- and petroleum-well drilling in North America and oil well completion activity.
These decreases were exacerbated by restrictions imposed as the result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in a significant decline in consumption of petroleum products, which in turn prompted a decrease in demand for hydraulic-fracturing sand.
Imports of industrial sand and gravel in 2021 were an estimated 360,000 tons, a 14% decrease from those of the previous year. 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 remained a net exporter of industrial sand and gravel; U.S. exports of industrial sand and gravel increased by 39% in 2021 compared with those of the previous year.
The United States was the world’s leading producer and consumer of industrial sand and gravel based on estimated world production figures.