Can Sand Be Reclaimed for Use in Fracking?

With so much work being done to prove and establish beneficial uses of used metalcasting sand, you might have wondered if reclaimed sand could be used in the fracking industry. 

The question was recently posed to a member of the AFS technical department, who asked for input from a few sand experts. According to them, the sand needed for fracking has very specific properties that are too costly to replicate and verify with reclaimed sand—particularly when virgin sand still is readily available at a lower cost.  

“Frac fluids are formulated to have very specific rheological properties. Extremely large volumes of proppant (up to 10 MM lbs.) with very consistent physical and chemical properties are required to frac even one well,” said Dave Jablonski, Badger Mining Corp. “It would be difficult and expensive to get a large enough volume of reclaimed sand with uniform properties to a well site for potential use.

“Due to the high cost of the reclaimed sand at the well site, it wouldn’t even be worthwhile to use it for part of the proppant requirement as virgin sand would be less expensive and have more consistent properties. Engineers would be unwilling to adjust formulas site by site to accommodate the use of whatever reclaim sand was available to them. There would simply be no advantage to reclaim sand.” 

In the future, some periphery uses for reclaimed sand in fracking might be found, but presently, it is not cost or technically feasible.

What's Old Is New Again

In this issue of Modern Casting, the focus is on plant engineering—ways to upgrade, remodel, expand and advance your metalcasting facility.  Through four features, this issue examines a new steel casting facility in Omaha, rejuvenated facility Brillion Iron Works, trends in facility upgrades and a redefinition of investment priorities for metalcasters. As always, the goal is to provide you some food for thought as you evaluate your facility for ways to push forward.

My food for thought for this issue came when Senior Editor Shannon Wetzel and I visited Brillion Iron Works a few months ago for the story, “Brillion Iron Works Rejuvenation,” on p. 26. My first visit to Brillion more than 10 years ago occurred on a bitterly cold winter morning for which Northern Wisconsin is famous. While the facility was large with vast capabilities, it appeared as if its best times were a thing of the past.

“Brillion had tired equipment, an ineffective layout and a challenged operation,” Rick Dauch, president and CEO of Brillion’s parent Accuride, said this year.

When the industry was whispering that Brillion was coming alive again, I will admit we were skeptical. The key was to visit the facility firsthand to judge with our own eyes.  And with our first steps into the remodeled entrance and office buildings, the cold winter I experienced before seemed to fade away, replaced by the warmth and excitement of new beginnings.

“The last two to three years, we have been working to diligently fix the business.  And the culture of the management team has been to invest to make sure the technology is right,” said Brillion President Dave Adams.

The turnaround strategy has included applying lean manufacturing principles that improve financial performance, replacing tired equipment, enhancing communication with the workforce, and reevaluating the cost and pricing structure. Sounds like a straight-forward plan, but then consider the new management team at Brillion is trying to enact these changes at an 80-year-old facility that also happens to be one of the largest single-plant casting operations in the U.S.

The results show the new Brillion management team is on to something. The improvements at the facility have reduced the plant’s breakeven point in sales by 30%, a monumental achievement for a 140,000-ton-capacity metalcaster. Lead times also have been improved by more than 30%.

 “Managing for maturity … means moving beyond investing in equipment for capacity and growth. Instead, we need to focus on investing to shrink cost structures and boost competitiveness via improved quality and short lead times,” writes TDC Consulting’s Dan Marcus, an expert on turnarounds in metalcasting, in the feature, “ROI for the 21st Century,” on p. 34.

For Brillion, the focus is on costs, quality, lead times and profitability—with dramatic improvements in the first three, resulting in growth of the fourth. For this metalcaster, the turnaround does appear to be “transformational.”

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