Sediment from the Missouri River Basin can be as used a fracking proppant, or frack sand, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said in a statement on Feb. 27.
Sand demand from the oil and gas industry is estimated to be around 100 million tonnes in 2018, according to sand producer Hi-Crush Partners LP (NYSE: HCLP).
Using reservoir sediment for fracking could also help defray costs associated with mitigating sediment buildup in waterways, the USGS found in a recent study.
Sediment buildup from waterways can negatively impact infrastructure lifespan, public water supplies, hydroelectric power generation and recreation.
“Information from the new study could shift how deposited reservoir sediment is mitigated, and how recovered sediments potentially could be viable to various industries,” said Ron Zelt, a USGS scientist and the lead author of the study.
USGS scientists investigated the potential of reservoir sediments in the delta headwaters of Lewis and Clark Lake in Nebraska and South Dakota, downstream from the Niobrara River, to produce sources of proppant sands similar to those from the Loup River. They collected and analyzed 71 sediment samples at various depths from 25 locations, and found that 48% of the samples were the adequate size, shape and strength to be used as frack sand.
“Sediments carried by the Loup River, whose headwaters are in the Sand Hills in Nebraska, are already being used as a source of proppant sand for industry,” Zelt said. “Like the Loup River, parts of the Niobrara River are also in the Sand Hills.”
The scientists also analyzed particular methods that can be used to identify and assess sediments for fracking-related commercial products.