Through hydraulic fracturing, the oil and gas industry has been able to access resources previously thought to be unreachable. This process involves the injection of a fluid containing sand, or proppant, into an oil or gas well to increase the available area for production.
But what exactly is proppant? In this article, we’ll explore the role of proppants in the oil and gas industry, including different types of proppants, such as frac sand, and what they are used for.
Here’s what you need to know:
Proppant is a granular material placed into an oil or gas well to create pathways for the hydrocarbons to flow through. It can be made from different materials, including frac sand, resin-coated sand, and ceramic beads. Frac proppant sand is the most commonly used form of proppant and is composed of naturally occurring raw silica sand that has been rounded and has had any impurities removed.
The invaluable resource is high-strength grit material that opens shale fractures and allows oil and gas extraction. If proppant is not included in fracturing liquid, the fractures close, and much less oil and natural gas are able to escape to the surface for extraction.
The role of proppant in oil and gas production is to keep fractures open after hydraulic fracturing operations have been completed. This allows for a more efficient flow of hydrocarbons from shale formations into wells. Without proppants, the fractures would quickly close up once the pressure was released from hydraulic fracturing operations, reducing production significantly.
Unlike other rock forms, shale deposits do not have naturally occurring fissures through which oil and natural gas can flow. Perforations are drilled into fractures to extract oil and gas from deposits, as proppants are forced inside at a high-pressure rate. This process fractures the shale, allowing gas and oil to flow and be extracted.
New technologies enable access to oil and gas reserves while minimizing the environmental impacts of fracing operations. New types of frac sand proppants have been developed that reduce dust emissions by up to 75%, resulting in much cleaner air around producing wellsites.
New resins have also been developed that allow for more efficient fracturing operations in addition to improved recovery rates for trapped hydrocarbons in hard-to-reach places, such as tight sands or low permeability reservoirs.
Want to learn more about our industrial sand options? Explore the variety of uses for high-quality industrial and silica sand with Pontotoc.
There are three main types of proppant that are used in the hydraulic fracturing process. While each type of proppant has its own advantages, they all have incredibly high crush strengths, allowing them to withstand high pressures and keep shale fractures open.
Outlined below are the different types:
Silica frac sand is the preferred material for well production in the oil and gas industry. Silica withstands significant forces while remaining chemically stern because it’s made of high-quality silica quartz. Silica frac sand proppants can typically withstand forces up to 6,000 psi; however, there are many cases where proppants are required to withstand even greater pressures.
Ceramic proppants are popular because they offer superior strength under the high pressures of deep formations and can withstand higher pressure than silica sand. Ceramic proppants typically endure forces up to 10,000 psi. Although they’re more expensive, ceramic proppants are available in a wider selection of grain sizes and boast a higher conductivity than natural frac sand. Many ceramic proppants are made from sintered bauxite, kaolin, magnesium silicate, or blends of bauxite and kaolin. Ceramic proppants are made in the following process:
- Crushing: Raw materials are crushed into a powder and mixed with additives to develop specialized formulations that maximize performance.
- Pelletizing: The mixed powder is pelletized to create a round, uniform product. Sizing is a critical component of performance. Mesh sizes range from 8 to 140.
- Drying: Pellets are dried in industrial dryers to reduce the moisture content of the material.
- Sintering: Pellets are sintered in a kiln for curing—the high temperatures cause the chemical reactions and crystalline changes that give ceramic proppants their crush-resistant strength.
- Cooling: The pellets are removed from the kiln and sent to a rotary cooler, where they remain until they’re ready for transport.
Resin-coated sand proppants have been popular in fracing for decades because of their ability to form a pack within fractures. Fracturing fluid and resin-coated proppants complement each other for optimized well completion. There are two main types of resin-coated materials:
- Curable: Curable resin chemically reacts with other fracturing fluids, which allows the resin to bind together and prevents materials from flowing back into the wellbore.
- Pre-Cured Resin: Pre-cured resin is fully cured before being injected into the fracture, making it highly resistant to crushing and interaction with other chemicals in the well.
As the demand for energy continues to grow, proppants will likely become even more important in the industry. Here are just a few benefits for oil and gas companies that utilize the resource:
- Cost effectiveness: Using proppants can be more cost effective than traditional drilling methods, allowing companies to extract more oil and natural gas from a single well.
- Improved safety: Proppants can make hydraulic fracturing safer by reducing the risk of blowouts and other accidents.
- Greater control over fracing: Proppants allow for greater control over the fracing process, allowing companies to target specific areas of a rock formation and extract the most oil and natural gas.
At Pontotoc Sand & Stone, we’ve got all the best types of proppant for your fracing operation. We also understand the importance of load time, which is why we’ve developed an innovative loading process that takes less than seven minutes. Our automated process makes ordering, hauling, and tracking easier for your business.
Our sand undergoes a rigorous cleaning and testing process that grades and removes debris, ensuring compliance with industry standards. Once our sand arrives at your facility, it’s ready for use. Contact Pontotoc today to learn more about our high-quality shale gas proppant.