MOUNT VERNON — The spread of hydraulic fracturing use in drilling for natural gas has sparked a growing demand for a specific kind of quartz sand, but only one local sand and gravel producer seems to be in a position to take advantage of it.
Carmeuse Industrial Sands, owner of the Millwood Sand Co., produces a sand that is 99.4 percent quartz (silicon dioxide). That’s one of the characteristics sought in fracking sand, along with round grains in a specific size range. The grains are left behind in the cracks created by the fracking process and keep the cracks open to allow gas or oil to flow into the well. Quartz is resistant to crushing, so the cracks stay open.
The Millwood operation has been selling some frack sand since 1996, but sales have taken off in the past year. “It’s been a good boost for us,” said plant Supervisor Steve Ditto.
“Sales (of frack sand) are up 150 to 200 percent over a year ago,” he said. Most of that is being shipped to Pennsylvania.
And that’s despite the fact that Millwood’s sand is not ideal for fracking.
“The shape is not the best,” Ditto explained.
The increase in business meant two additional employees were added this year, bringing the 110-year-old plant’s total to eight, and there will probably be “a couple more” this year, Ditto said.