As passionate as I am on the subject, I am aware that not everyone shares this fury, so this will be the last posting on fracking. I think you all know by now how I feel on the subject, and, hopefully, you all share my abhorrence.
Treasure your glass jars and windows. They may well be in short supply in the future...
There is another blight on the landscape thanks to the oil companies fracking for gas. And there is more precious water usage / wastage in the processing of this product. And it has caused one more farmer to stop producing food - for a completely different reason.
And all in the name of ... money.
Yes, these mines may provide employment, which enable families to survive in these hard times. But what of the greater picture? What of this planet? Could those new employees not have helped the farmer to produce crops? Should governments not be making the growing of crops the more imperative employment and action, as opposed to sinking ruddy great holes into the earth and filling those holes with chemicals / leaving vast empty caverns of nothingness - accidents / sinkholes / vulnerable weaknesses just waiting to add to earthquake results. How is damage to the planet, and, more importantly, to the crop fields / potential crop fields, going to help in the future when food is in short supply? Just so that oil companies could extract oil and gas for massive profits (BP has just declared a profit of $5.6 million for the period 1 January to 30 June) and banks / governments could pocket the fees / taxes to pay their (exorbitant) salaries, bonuses (!?!) and line their nest eggs with bribes!
Thanks to Clive for sending me this link. And thanks Kathleen, for writing the article.
Natural Gas Extraction Creates A Boom For Sand
by Kathleen Masterson
August 3, 2011
The rise of fracking as a method for extracting natural gas from shale rock has triggered demand for a key ingredient in the process: silica sand. In parts of the upper Midwest, there's been a rush to mine this increasingly valuable product.
In northeast Iowa, a mine recently reopened to profit from the new demand. It's owned by the Pattison family, who have run a grain business for decades. They had been storing the grain in the old, unused mine tunnels carved into the cliffs and then loading it onto barges to ship downriver. They pretty much ignored the sandstone all around them.
But then one day owner Kyle Pattison got a phone call.
"We decided to open the mine because of being requested by a fracking company to," Pattison says. "They asked us to supply sand, for frack."
So with a nudge from the natural gas industry, Pattison sold his grain business and opened up Pattison Sand Co.
And he's not the only one to jump into the business. Sandstone deposits are plentiful and accessible across the upper Midwest and in Texas and Oklahoma. Dozens of companies are ramping up production and expanding their mines and quarries to meet the huge demand. But why can't the natural gas industry get enough of this sand?
"This sand happens to have lot of properties that they covet. So they're descending on all these areas to provide their sand for their shale gas fracking operations," says Iowa State University geologist Bill Simpkins.
|Photo source: Kathleen Masterson for NPR|
He says the industry is using silica sand because of its unique spherical shape and incredible toughness. To extract natural gas bound up in shale rock, energy companies drill thousands of feet down and then blast pressurized water and chemicals into the shale to fracture it.
"And the role of the sand is to keep the fractures open," Simpkins says.
Other materials can do the same job, but sand is the cheapest. According to U.S. Geological Survey data, production of frack sand has more than quadrupled since 2000.
Tom Dolley of the U.S. Geological Survey says he's not sure just how many frack sand mines there are across the country, but he says the industry is growing. "It's happening so quickly it makes my head spin sometimes," Dolley says.
One region that's seen huge growth is in Wisconsin, which is already the nation's second-largest industrial sand mining state after Illinois. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources official Tom Portle likened the surge to the gold rush.
"There's been other counties where there's been frack sand mines for many, many years, and they've just kind of been sleepy deals, kind of under the radar, steady business, but not explosive like we're seeing now," Portle says.
Back at the Pattison Sand Co. in Iowa, business has been booming. Over the past 6 months, the company has hired 50 workers.
To enter the mine, you have to drive a diesel truck — because gasoline is too combustible — down a switchback road that winds its way to the bottom of the 300-foot bluff to an opening carved into the cliff's side. After the sand has been excavated, it's sent to a processing unit at the base of the bluff where it's washed with water and sorted. The Pattison Sand Co. processing facility runs year round.
After decades of using the mines just to store grain, sand is flying out the door. Pattison ships as many as 45 rail cars full of sand each day. A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that could bring in more than $100,000 a day.
Dolley says this sand fetches a much higher price when used for fracking than for construction or even making glass bottles.
"There's considerable variation in price, but yeah, frack is gonna be over double what you would see for glass container price," he says.
In Iowa alone, the Pattison mine could easily have enough sandstone to last 10 years. That's a lot considering that to meet fracking demand, it's running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year long. After the sand has been excavated, it's sent to a processing unit at the base of the bluff where it's washed with water and sorted. The Pattison Sand Co. processing facility runs year round.
Sad, sad, sad. Our world has gone seriously wonky...