American Oil and Gas Reporter - February 2018 - 61

SpecialReport: Advancing Shale Science
not even leave the truck cab, and can do
a quick turnaround with an empty Sandbox
returning to the mine."
Regardless of how many tons of proppant are sent down hole, a stimulation
treatment will be effective only if the sand
props open fractures throughout the reservoir, Smith points out. US Silica estimates
that only 15-20 percent of fractures in a
typical frac job are large enough to take
100-mesh sand, based on an analysis of
fracture networks performed over the past
12-18 months. As a result, 75-80 percent
of the fracture network is not stimulated.
To address this problem, US Silica
has developed a new line of "microproppants" that are 200-mesh or smaller. Field
tested by an operator in the Marcellus
Shale, the microproppants can be carried
farther into fracture networks and into
previously unpropped fractures.
"MicroStim™ is 200-mesh while MicroStimPlus™ is a silica flour," Smith
elaborates. "As for their effectiveness, all I
can say for the time being is that the Marcellus operator has ordered the microproppant for more of its wells," notes Smith.
Quality Control
Sand quality is a function of original
sand properties and the processes it goes
through from the mine to well site, points
out Scotti Bayman, HS&E and quality
director at Shale Support. He says strict
quality control processes improve efficiency and reduce waste, while providing
a strong audit trail and product reliability.
"With our QC protocols, there is no question that our customers get exactly what
they ordered every time," he says.
Shale Support's DeltaPearl™ is a clean
white sand mined in Mississippi. Cut to
order, the sand is typically sold in meshes
ranging from 20 to 100. With low turbidity,
the sand generates less dust and is ideal
for stress-pressure conditions, Bayman
reports. Delta Pearl made its entry in the
Permian Basin in July 2014, and he says
Shale Support now has four Permian terminals as well as terminals in other basins
in Texas and the Appalachian Basin.
The wet mine and wet plant are colocated on 1,300 acres near Picayune.
"The sand is cut and tested multiple times
before being transferred to the dry plant,"
Bayman says. "Wet operations include
three cleaning cycles where fines are
floated out and sand is rounded."

By implementing state-of-the-art quality control processes, Shale Support is improving
efficiency and safety, lowering costs, assuring reliability and providing a strong audit
trail. Extensive testing protocols at the company's Delta Pearl™ mine and process plants
in Mississippi are augmented by detailed tracking and quality monitoring procedures
that include scannable quick response codes and bar codes on every rail car or truck
with identifying information such as car number, weight, sieve data and destination.

The raw materials are tested again as
they enter the dry facility following a
five-mile transit, he goes on. "As the
sand is dried, it is tested every hour using
a particle size analyzer as well as roll
testers," Bayman comments. "The sand
is tested on every shift, as well as with
traditional sieves. We track the distribution
of particle sizes and recalibrate the analyzers as needed."
Another test is run as sand is loaded
from silos into rail cars or trucks for
delivery.
"We are meticulous in tracking product
as it travels to termination points," Bayman
states, noting that the company has developed a process that ties logistics and
quality together. As rail cars and trucks
enter the yard, they are inspected and entered into a tracking system. Each hopper
car or truck is assigned a product
grade/mesh size. As sand is loaded, a
sample is pulled and tested (a composite
sample is saved for each order). If there
is a mismatch at any point between the
sample and the assigned grade, the system
automatically stops the load-out.
"We work hard to prevent common
loading process errors by building in this
kind of automated fail-safe feature," explains Bayman.
Once a rail car or truck is loaded, it
moves on to a "scale-in-motion" weighing
station and the data are captured in the

tracking system. Finally, Bayman says a
destination is assigned. Rail seals and retainer labels-complete with quick response
codes and bar codes-are printed and
placed on every rail car or truck. "The
QR and bar codes are quickly and easily
scanned for identifying information, including car number, weight, sieve data
and destination," he explains.
Bayman says Shale Support expects
to continue expanding its operational
footprint. It recently added barging and
is now constructing a 300-acre transload
facility in the Permian Basin to provide
additional flexibility for short-notice orders. "The quality process may seem burdensome, but it pays off in improved
safety, lower process costs and customer
satisfaction," Bayman concludes.
New South Texas Mine
Superior Silica Sands LLC, a subsidiary
of Emerge Energy Services, also is opening
a new mine in Texas, but the company
made the strategic decision to focus its
attention on the Lone Star State's other
major shale basin: the Eagle Ford.
"In the movement toward in-basin
supply, we are taking the path less traveled," says Rick Shearer, president and
chief executive officer. Last year, the
company acquired Osburn Materials' mine
south of San Antonio, within an 80-mile
FEBRUARY 2018 61



American Oil and Gas Reporter - February 2018

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