Texas Company Brings Frack Sand to Columbiana
COLUMBIANA, Ohio -- Two tanker trucks arrive at the Buckeye Transfer Realty property for their haul: some 23 tons each of white frac sand, or proppants, used for hydraulic fracturing. After just 15 minutes, the first truck is already en route to deliver its load to a nearby well in the Utica Shale.
This is the latest venture for Buckeye Transfer, managing the transloading operations for Santrol, a Sugar Land, Texas-based producer of proppant materials for the oil and gas industries. Santrol’s parent company, Fairmount Minerals, is based in Chardon, Ohio.
Santrol ships the proppants via train to Buckeye, where it’s unloaded from the rail cars, loaded into tanker trucks and hauled to Santrol’s customers in the Utica and Marcellus shale plays, said Buckeye Transfer’s chief operating officer, Lisa Wallace. Each rail car holds about 100 tons of proppants. For now, the material is transloaded at one spot on the property as need demands. But as that need increases, Wallace said shipments will become more regular with Buckeye transloading at least 15,000 tons of proppants monthly.
“And it should grow from there as the (Utica) play develops,” Wallace said. “As the business grows, we’ll be transloading on several different spots on the facility.”
Shifts are currently irregular, with trucks arriving as early as 5 a.m. and as late as midnight, Wallace said. Buckeye has hired three workers to do the transloading, and plans to hire more as the shifts become more regular.
“We’ll probably be hiring another dozen people here in the very near future,” Wallace said. “This is going to ramp up, I think, a little quicker than anybody thought. We’re very excited to have this kicked off.”
Buckeye’s owner and president, Jerry Stoneburner, said his company had worked for 18 months to get the Santrol operation up and running at the site. Now starting the second week of transloading the proppants, Stoneburner said he anticipates the operation to be big.
“Right now it’s fairly slow because we’re just getting started, but eventually we should be able to put about 50 to 60 trucks through here,” Stoneburner said. “We’re going to be gearing up in March to probably 15,000 to 20,000 tons (per month).”
In a prepared statement, Santrol said the terminal’s direct access to rail and state Route 11 allow shale operators to work more efficiently “by reducing proppant transportation costs from the terminal to the wellhead.” This is Santrol's 39th such terminal in the United States, and its first in Ohio.
“Because the terminal is in the heart of the Utica and on the western portion of the Marcellus, our proppant is available immediately with a lower transportation cost,” said Tom McCoy, director of terminal management for Fairmount. “We feel that we offer the broadest terminal network in the industry to our customers across the United States. Our proppant is available at the right place at the right time.”
In the hydraulic fracturing industry, a proppant is a material that keeps the induced hydraulic fracture open during or after the fracturing process. The average hydraulic fracturing job in the Utica Shale plays uses from 1,000- to 3,000 tons of proppants.
Santrol will be shipping both raw frac sand and resin-coated proppants in the grades requested by its customers. While most customers operate within a 60-mile radius of Buckeye, the proppants can be hauled as far as 200 miles.
Santrol supplies a variety of proppants used in shallow wells as well as horizontal wells, its website says. It also provides chemical activators and biodegradable ball sealers. The company's operations include proprietary resin-coating, captive sources of Northern White frac sand with decades of verified reserves, and a private fleet of more than 3,000 railcars.
Fairmount Materials says it's one of the largest producers of industrial sand in North America, and employs 800 worldwide. In 2011, the company produced and shipped more than 6 million tons of sand and value-added sand products. Fairmount operates nine mining and mineral processing plants, nine manufacturing and coating plants, one resin producing operation, three custom blending plants and four offices for administration and research and development.
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