American Oil and Gas Reporter - February 2018 - 60

SpecialReport: Advancing Shale Science
and eventually closes. Layering sand and
an ultralow-density ceramic proppant
such as CARBOAIR® is an effective way
to address this 'duning' problem and
obtain longer/higher propped fractures
(especially farther from the wellbore).
"CARBOAIR is 28 percent lighter
than sand, has a 12 percent higher packing advantage and requires 30 percent
less water to place," he continues, "resulting in 40 percent more volume being
filled when pumping the same amount
of mass."
Pumping a mixture of sand and ceramic
proppant can measurably improve reservoir
contact, Conkle comments, referencing
an operator in the Eagle Ford that performed a side-by-side comparison in
virgin rock. "The only difference between
the completions was that one well included
a CARBOAIR tail-in," he explains. "After
six months, there was a 20 percent increase
in production. Additional fine tuning with
hybrid designs could yield even more
improvement."
Among the newest solutions in CARBO's product line is an engineered proppant that protects against scale and salt,
and an ultrafine 200-mesh proppant the
company has dubbed NANOMITE™.
The engineered proppants are filled with
inhibitors and coated with a semi-permeable surface. "SCALEGUARD® is
mixed with sand and/or base ceramic and
pumped into fracs, where it treats the
water that flows through it to mitigate
scaling issues during production. It is
particularly suited to the Permian, where
scale can be a problem," Conkle says.
"NANOMITE can achieve better diversion
and prop open small natural fractures in
complex fracture networks."
For diagnostics, CARBONRT® nonradioactive tracer helps operators pinpoint
where proppant is located, assessing proppant entry points along a lateral in a horizontal well and propped fracture height
in vertical wells. Conkle says the tracer
is distributed throughout each proppant
grain, allowing for the most accurate
method to identify proppant location.
By year's end, Conkle announces,
CARBO plans to launch a new type of
diagnostic service that uses a proprietary
detectable proppant and electromagnetic
detection technique to shed new light on
proppant location within the reservoir-
including in the far-field area away from
the wellbore.
"Field trials demonstrate that the technology can detect the entire dimension
60 THE AMERICAN OIL & GAS REPORTER

of the frac," Conkle enthuses. "The proppant is coated with a metallic substance
and an electromagnetic signal from the
surface induces a response that shows
the proppant's geolocation. This represents a major step in giving operators
insights they can use to optimize field
development and completion designs.
They will know how much of the reservoir they contact, how far fractures
extend and whether to change well spacing or zone perforation targets. It potentially could be key in evaluating their
proppant and fluid selections."
New Permian Mines
Billy Ray Smith, US Silica's senior
vice president and president of oil and
gas proppants, says the company is opening two new mines in the Permian during
the first half of 2018. Its Crane County
facility, which is expected to be on line
by the end of March, has a capacity of 4
million tons a year. The Lamesa plant is
scheduled to come on line in the second
quarter with 2.6 million tons of annual
production capacity. Both mines have
production contracts in place.
The company also is expanding three
other facilities in Texas and Oklahoma,
which effectively will double overall regional capacity within eight months,
Smith reports.
US Silica is among the nation's largest
sand producers with more than 20 mines
nationwide, and Smith says the company
recognizes better than most the significant
cost savings that in-basin sand can provide.
"Rail cost can contribute as much as 4060 percent to the total cost of sand delivered
into the Permian," he observes. "By bringing
on in-basin mines, we can provide significant cost reductions to local operators."
Smith notes that both new plants have
been built using a simplified plug-andplay design, enabling quick expansions
or upgrades as needed. For example, he
points out, a proppant coating facility
could be easily added. "We took a SWAT
approach to these projects, grabbing
people from all over the organization to
make these mines happen in record time,"
he says.
The company also took a careful approach to logistics as it selected locations,
Smith adds. "There is great concern about
increased truck congestion in the Kermit
area," he adds. "We know that demand
comes in waves and surges, requiring a

lot of storage and load-out capacity to
prevent long lines of trucks on the roads."
Accordingly, the Crane County location
will have 12 load-outs plus an express
lane for the Sandbox™ containerized delivery system. Each plant will have 72,000
tons of on-site storage. "We have had as
much or more interest in the Lamesa
plant as the Crane County facility," Smith
remarks. "Its product provides the best
access to well sites in the Midland and
southern Delaware basins."
The two new mines will produce 100mesh and 40/70-mesh sands. Pre-purchase
testing showed the crush resistance is
comparable to northern white. The 40/70mesh has a crush resistance of 7-8 K values, while the 100-mesh has a crush resistance of 10 K values. "These and other
properties of the sands fall within API
specifications, and the 40/70-mesh meets
or exceeds our 'southern premium' sand
specification."
Flexibility Is Key
Smith says he expects operators will
continue to use a mix of sands sourced
from different areas, including both regional
sands and northern white. "Nobody knows
yet how the new in-basin sands ultimately
will impact production, but we are confident in the quality of our in-basin supplies,"
he relates. To fully serve Permian operators
and augment supplies of in-basin and
northern white, Smith adds that US Silica
has the capability to provide brown sands
from expanded facilities at its Texas mines
at Kosse and Tyler, as well as Mill Creek
in Oklahoma.
Flexibility is the key. With today's oil
prices, plays are economic in every U.S.
oil shale basin and sand demand is high.
"With the scale of our nationwide footprint
and the diversity of our supplies, we are
positioned to react to operator demand
for multiple sands from multiple locations
in multiple regions," he assures.
Fast responsiveness is central to the
concept of the Sandbox system, which
US Silica introduced to improve lastmile logistics efficiency and safety. The
gravity-fed system also significantly reduces cost, noise and dust, according to
Smith. "Sandbox is loaded onto a special
trailer with a low center of gravity, making
it safer for road travel," he details. "Quick
connects allow it to be offloaded in a
matter of minutes. Drivers typically do



American Oil and Gas Reporter - February 2018

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