Author Archives: Jeremiah Floersch

  1. Roundness, Sphericity and Microproppants

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    Gravel, sand, and other aggregates must be separated and classified based on their sphericity and roundness to determine the suitability for various applications.  These two terms describe the shape of these materials in two different dimensions.

    • Sphericity measures how close the rock is to a perfect sphere.
    • Roundness is a measurement of the edge of the rock.

    These measurements provide a means of documenting the difference between various shapes, such as rhombus and a football, or a circle and an octagon. The mathematical equations for determining roundness and sphericity can be found here

    The Krumbein Roundness and Sphericity Chart

    Most applications for aggregate don’t require the level of accuracy provided by the above mathematical calculations, so a simple visual test is easier and faster. The Krumbein Roundness and Sphericity Chart has been widely adopted as a visual method for determining the shape of an aggregate. This chart can be seen in Figure 1.

    Applications in the Oil and Gas Industry

    Measuring sphericity and roundness is critical for fracking operations in the oil and gas sector, as these properties determine the strength and permeability of the aggregate. Silica sand’s ability to withstand high compression stresses depends on both of these factors. If the sand is on the low end of the sphericity and roundness chart, the particles will have too many sharp edges. 

    When compressive forces are applied directly to those edges, the stress concentrations increase exponentially. If the sand is under too much stress, it will shatter, further increasing the amount of jagged-edged particles. This process can have a domino effect until nothing remains but a vein of silica dust deep in the ground.

    Silica sand serves two purposes in fracking:

    • It acts as a proppant, which props open the cracks in the shale.
    • It allows oil to flow back to the well head.

    Fracking sand must remain permeable or it has the opposite of its intended effect. Without gaps between the grains of sand, oil cannot flow between the particles. If the silica turns to dust, it instead blocks the flow of oil.


    Sand particles smaller than U.S. Sieve size 140 mesh are referred to as microproppants. There are smaller silica products known as silica flour, but these flours are ground into dust and rate very low on the sphericity and roundness chart. Silica flour is too jagged and has very low crush strength. 

    As a visual reference, imagine stacking basketballs. The rounded edges of the balls provide space for fluid to flow between each ball. Silica flour is more like stacking Legos. There is no space to allow oil to flow back into the well head between each “Lego.” See Figure 2. 

    For fracking, it’s important to source silica sand that is still whole-grain rather than ground or crushed, ensuring that oil will still be able to flow between the grains. Figure 3 below is a photo of 200-grain mesh whole-grain silica sand. The dark column is a 0.7 mm pencil lead as a size reference.

    These whole-grain microproppants rank much higher on the sphericity and roundness chart, and thus feature a higher crush resistance than ground silica flours. This ultimately adds to the productivity and service life of the well.

    Silica Products From MS Industries

    MS Industries provides high-quality whole-grain silica products for use in oil and gas applications. Our silica sand features consistent size, color, chemistry, ensuring reliable well performance with an optimal service life. For more information about our silica sand products, please contact us or request a quote.

  2. API Frac Sand Standards and Microproppants

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    Recently, smaller grains of sand are in demand in the oil and gas markets. While fracking processes started with coarser grains of sand, the market is trending toward finer mesh size silica grains. 

    At first, fracking used silica sand with mesh such as 16-30, 20-40, and 30-50. In the years since, however, the markets have made 40-70 and 70-140 mesh sizes the default standard. In this article, we’ll discuss the role of frac sand and other proppants in the oil and gas markets, as well as what the industry can expect in the race to mine finer silica sand. 

    What Is Frac Sand?

    Frac sand is a particular type of sand that’s used in hydraulic fracking. Shale and other low-permeability reservoirs may have relatively low amounts of fossil fuels, but they have enough to be increasingly viable in competitive oil and gas markets. Both oil and natural gas markets use frac sand to prop open wells to produce natural gas, oil, and other energy-rich fluids from fracking sites. 

    Frac sand, which is crystalline sand derived from high-purity sandstone, has unique properties that oil and gas producers need. The quartz grains are naturally occurring, crush-resistant, and come in an extensive range of grain sizes for different operations. Frac is purely silica quartz, whereas other sands—like most intercoastal sands—are a mix of multiple different rocks and minerals.

    Ultimately, silica sand offers highly consistent resistance to crushing and physical force to a degree that other sands can’t provide.

    Proppants in the Oil and Gas Markets

    Fracking processes break open shale reservoirs to extract natural gas, oil, and natural gas liquids. Once a site has been discovered, companies shoot highly pressurized jets of water into the reservoirs to create cracks and extract fossil fuels from the pores of the reservoir. 

    Because these cracks are under tremendous pressure from the surrounding rocks and earth, they will reseal as soon as water pressure diminishes. That’s where silica sand and other proppants come in: the material fills the widening crack to hold it open, even when the water jet moves on. This allows oil and gas companies to continue collecting material from the well for as long as possible. Because silica sand is resistant to crushing, the reservoir can’t easily reseal, and companies can more efficiently collect fuel for processing.

    The Impact of Mesh Sizes

    Frack technology is continuing to grow and evolve, and so is market access to increasingly specific varieties of silica sand. Companies are gradually shifting to prefer finer grains of frac sand. 

    Sand is measured through standardized sieve meshes that allow grains of different sizes through for sorting and categorizing. At first, larger mesh sizes, and correspondingly coarse sand grain sizes, were sufficient to mete out sand that allowed companies to extract fossil fuels from shale reservoirs. 

    Today, many companies use advanced fracking practices and smaller grain sizes to increase the proppants’ grip in the reservoirs and collect more fuel. Finer sands allow companies to both increase daily barrel production and pull from the same well longer. 

    407-0 and 70-140 grain size silica sand can push deeper into fine cracks and gaps in shale. Once the sand locks into place, it can hold the crack open and continue to wedge deeper into the shale. 

    How can finer sand go deeper into the well?

    Because fracking uses pressurized water to form the cracks in the first place, the addition of sand quickly forms a slurry. This slurry is slow, thick, and unable to reach into every crevice of the new cracks. Finer sand, however, is more resistant to forming a thick, slow slurry. It has a better Settling Velocity Rate (SVR) and goes deeper into cracks before the velocity decreases.

    Not only can companies reach deeper into a reservoir, but the finer sands increase overall surface area coverage of the shale cracks. The bigger the area of exposed pores, the more natural gas, liquid, and oil the company can extract per day and per well.

    Frac Sand Mining

    Fracking processes rely on finely controlled water and sand to extract as much fuel as possible from shale and low-permeability reservoirs. The water creates cracks and empty spaces in the rock formations, and the sand props the gaps open for longer extraction windows. 

    This sand demand isn’t negligible; each well requires up to 10,000 tons of sand. With the developing need for finer sand, the demand is also concentrating on just a few locations that can supply high-purity silica sand grains. 

    One of the most reliable locations for high-purity silicon dioxide sand in the United States is the region at the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin near the Great Lakes. This region produces highly spherical silica sand that’s close to the surface and consistently high quality. 

    Frac Sand From MS Industries II, LLC

    We specialize in providing both high-quality materials and logistics management. Our team delivers silica sand at your company’s requested specifications and on time, every time. Contact our team today to learn about our frac sand solutions or request a quote to get your order started.

  3. Understanding the Difference Between Silica Sand and Washed Sand

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    Silica sand consists of fine pieces of quartz and other minerals such as salt, silt, clay, dust and various powders. Washed sand goes through a cleaning or “washing” process that removes these additional substances.

    MS Industries is a provider of naturally occurring smaller sized silica sand with microproppants and proppants. Our sand is ideal for fracking, which requires smaller sized sand to fill the cracks during the process. Our silica sand is naturally occurring and costs less than other brands. It also has a high purity (greater than 99%), exceeding purity levels of our competitors.

    The Characteristics of Silica and Washed Sand

    Silica Sand

    Silica sand can range from nearly transparent to a darker gray. It is an odorless powder that can cause irritation to the skin or eyes on contact. Inhaling silica sand will also irritate the respiratory tract. In fact, the fine particulates of silica dust from quartz rock contribute to chronic, progressive lung injury, known as silicosis. Additional physical properties include:

    • Molecular Weight: 60.084 g/mol
    • Exact Mass: 59.966756 g/mol
    • Boiling Point: 4046°F at 760 mm Hg
    • Melting Point: 3110°F

    Silicon dioxide (SiO2) is a naturally occurring compound of silicon and oxygen. This is the primary compound present in silica sand, which occurs in three main crystalline varieties, including quartz, tridymite, and cristobalite. Covalent bonding of a single silicon atom with two oxygen atoms, creating linear triatomic molecules, forms SiO2. Additional chemical properties of silica sand include:

    • Solubility: Insoluble
    • Vapor Pressure: Approximately 0 mm/Hg
    • Heat Combustion: Noncombustible

    Washed Sand

    Washed sand can begin as silica sand or any other type of sand and undergoes a washing and rinsing process after mining. Salt, clay, silt, and other powders and dust are washed out of the overall mixture. Washed sand often undergoes additional separating and classification into grain sizes or grit sizing.

    The common types of washed sand are as follows:

    • Concrete Sand. This type of washed sand is mixed with concrete or asphalt for construction purposes and provides a smoother pour and cleaner finish.
    • Masonry Sand. Similar to concrete sand, masonry sand is mixed with concrete for construction purposes. This is usually a finer grit sand, which is sifted to achieve greater grain uniformity necessary for masonry bonding.
    • White Sand. This sand is mostly applied where aesthetics are the objective. Sand traps, manmade beaches, beach volleyball courts, and play sand. When the white color isn’t naturally available, limestone is added as a whitener.

    Because of washing and sorting, washed sand varieties usually carry a higher price tag than silica sand offerings.

    Differences Between Silica Sand and Washed Sand

    Applications of Silica Sand and Washed Sand

    Both silica sand and washed sand are available for a broad range of applications. Similar applications where use of either is common include:

    • Landscaping
    • Pool installations
    • Providing traction for cars and trucks on slick roads
    • Concrete and mortar mixing

    Applications where silica sand is the better choice include:

    • Sand blasting
    • Glass manufacturing
    • Water filtering
    • Backfill for electrical lines and pipes
    • Fracking

    Applications where washed sand is preferred include:

    • Mortar mix for brick and stonework
    • Man-made beaches
    • Beach volleyball courts

    Silica Sand Options for Your Next Project

    MS Industries provides silica sand for a variety of applications in industries like:

    • Oil and Gas
    • Construction and building
    • Tile
    • Roofing
    • Foundry
    • Fiberglass and glass

    Contact us to learn more about how silica sand will provide the best solution for your application or request a quote from an MS Industries expert.

  4. How To Minimize Silica Dust Exposure

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    Silica, also known as quartz, is a commodity used in the making of steel to concrete, glass to rubber, microprocessors to plant soil and more. As workers handle and process these materials, they can create silica dust. This dust contains shards of crystalline silica particles. These nearly invisible particulates, when breathed in, can cause significant health issues.

    Understanding Silica Dust Exposure

    How Can One Be Exposed to It?

    Because silica is used in a vast amount of industries, there are a number of different ways that a person can be exposed to silica dust. Silica dust is most prevalent in the moving of dry silica sand. As the silica moves through any system, the smallest particles get left behind become suspended in the air. The larger amount of silica dust in the air, the greater chance of exposure.

    Common Places Where Exposure Happens

    The common areas where exposure can occur include:

    • Renovations and Construction. Jackhammers, concrete saws, sandblasters all cause considerable amount of silica dust when breaking up and removing concrete, ceramic tiles, bricks and other building materials.
    • Transportation of Dry Silica. The transportation and transferring of dry silica from truck to tanks, conveyor belts to conveyor belts can cause a significant amount of silica dust.
    • Furnaces. Workers who repair or replace furnaces and their components also run the risk of exposure to crystalline silica particles.

    Silicosis and Other Diseases

    What Is Silicosis?

    Silicosis is a lung disease that can develop when someone breathes in dust containing silica particles. Inhaling the dust can lead to the formation of scar tissue or fibrosis in the lungs, which reduce the lungs’ ability to absorb and process oxygen.
    As there is currently no permanent treatment for silicosis, prevention is critical.

    What Are the Symptoms of Silicosis?

    Silicosis generally occurs in stages after 15–20 years of exposure to silica particles.
    Although early stages may have little to no symptoms, continued exposure can result in a noticeable shortness of breath, fever, and bluish coloring at the skin of the lips or ears. Silicosis also increases the risk of the affected person developing other lung diseases, including tuberculosis. As the condition progresses, fatigue starts to set in, along with appetite loss, chest pain, severe shortness of breath, and respiratory failure. Over time, these symptoms can result in death.

    What Is Acute Silicosis?

    Acute silicosis can occur within weeks or months of exposure to high levels of crystalline silica. Individuals with acute silicosis typically develop sudden symptoms such as fever, chest pains, and difficulty breathing. With high enough concentrations, the prognosis is fatal.

    What Is Chronic Silicosis?

    Chronic silicosis typically occurs after 10 or more years of exposure to low levels of crystalline silica. It can affect areas of the upper lungs, as well as causes extensive scarring and the above-mentioned symptoms.

    What Are Other Diseases Related to Silica Exposure?

    Other diseases associated with silica exposure include lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and kidney disease.

    Understanding Responsibilities and Addressing Silica Dust Exposure

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) established a permissible exposure limit (PEL) that designates the maximum amount of airborne crystalline silica an employee can be exposed to during a work shift.

    Understanding the Employer’s Responsibilities

    To ensure that their employees’ exposure remains beneath this set limit, employers are obligated to supply and enforce the use of appropriate handling and safety equipment—such as water sprays, ventilation, and respirators—for dust containing crystalline silica particles. Employers may also offer safety training to their employees and health screenings to facilitate the prevention or early treatment of silicosis and other diseases related to silica dust.

    Understanding the Employee’s Responsibilites

    In addition to using the proper engineering controls and safety gear, employees can take a variety of other measures to limit their exposure to crystalline silica, such as:

    • Participating in educational programs to learn about the dangers of crystalline silica
    • Following appropriate health and safety protocols
    • Utilizing employer-offered health and lung screenings

    Addressing Silica Dust Exposure

    When in confined spaces, using water spray systems and proper ventilation can limit exposure to silica dust. Using respirators that are specifically designed to protect against silica dust can further reduce the risk of employees breathing in harmful compounds.
    Other actions an employee can take to help prevent the spreading of silica dust include thoroughly washing hands before eating or drinking in dusty areas and showering and changing into clean clothes prior to departing the workplace. The former helps keep any silica from spreading from person to person, and the latter prevents the silica from moving to different locations, such as one’s house or vehicle.

    Top Five Ways to Minimize Silica Dust Exposure and Prevent Silicosis

    The top five ways to minimize silica exposure and prevent the development of silicosis include:

    • Learning about the common areas and applications where exposure to silica dust can occur and how to avoid them/work in them safely
    • Using dust suppressants such as waters, oils and other liquids prevent crystalline silica dust from entering the air
    • Using the proper safety and handling equipment, such as water sprays, ventilation, and respirators
    • Following health and safety instructions given by your employer or medical professionals
    • Washing before eating or drinking and showering and changing after work
    • Utilizing any health and lung screenings offered by your employer
  5. K-Value and Microproppants

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    It’s 4:00 am, there is a test in four hours. You still have to shower, make coffee, feed the dog, get the kids to school, and drive 45 minutes to the testing facility. That leaves you with 13 minutes and 27 seconds to understand proppants.

    Don’t worry, there is only two things that you must know about proppants and why they work.

    1. Proppants’ first job is to open the earth below and keep it open (“Prop” it open).
    2. After the proppants accomplish the first job, their second job is to allow the gases and liquids to flow back to well head. They need to keep the well permeable.

    Done with at least 6 minutes to spare.

    Bad news, the world of proppants can be a lot more complicated than that. Good news, you don’t actually have to take that test.

    One of the more difficult things about hydraulic fracking is understanding what is actually happening several thousand feet under the ground. Cameras do not work under those harsh conditions, and you definitely cannot send someone down to watch.

    The easiest and most cost effective way of understanding things we cannot see is to model key aspects of the environment below the surface of the Earth.

    One test mimics the pressures of 2-3 miles of dirt, rocks and water, ISO/API’s Proppant Crush-Resistance Test. This puts the proppants under different pressures and checks proppants’ resilience to these forces.

    The test starts by prepping the proppants to make sure there are no particles smaller than a 200 US mesh screen. Then the sample of the proppant is placed onto a smooth steel plate within a cylinder. A piston is used to apply and hold specific pressures for two minutes. These pressures start at 2,000 PSI and step up every 1,000 PSI.

    After performing the test, the proppants are sieved to see how many particles pass through the 200 mesh.

    What does this show? Before the pressure was applied, the proppant sample was sieved, removing all particles smaller than 200 mesh. If any new particles pass through the 200 mesh sieve after the test, it was due to the proppant literally crumbling under the pressure. When the crushed, pulverized, and destroyed particles surpass 10% of total weight of the sample, the proppant is considered unusable at those pressures.

    When the individual grains of the proppant crumble, break, and fail, they leave behind small broken glass-like pieces. These shards block the passage of the oil and gas through the proppant, not allowing the well to produce as much of the commodity as it could. Also, the irregular shape of the shards do not add any strength to the other proppants in the area. Meaning the other particles have to hold more weight. With the increased weight, the greater chance the other particles also crumble, break and fail. It becomes a feedback loop that causes less output in the real world.

    Now enter microproppants. Microproppants are particles smaller than US Sieve 140 mesh. What else is smaller than US Sieve 140 mesh? US Sieve 200 mesh.

    The ISO/API crush-resistance test removes would be microproppants before it can be evaluated. Making this test as-is, irrelevant to evaluate microproppants. The solution to adjusting ISO/API crush-resistance test would be to lower the sieve size to a US Sieve 270 mesh or 325 mesh depending on the microproppant.

    Unfortunately, not everyone that makes decisions on the best proppant for their wells understands the ins and outs of this process. Those that depend heavily on ISO/API’s method to discern what is a good or bad proppant when looking at microproppants might miss out because of the bureaucratic nature of depending on specification sheets.

    Another quagmire with microproppants as an emerging technology is silica flour. Silica flour is being pushed as a microproppant.

    What is silica flour? Silica flour is where silica sand is crushed, pulverized, and destroyed in a milling process. Silica flour is the exact particle that ISO/API’s crush-resistance test looks for.

    Silica flour fails at proppants’ first two jobs of holding open the shale and allowing the petroleum to pass through it.

    When evaluating possible microproppants, look for wholegrain products. Ask for ISO/API results for the microproppant. If there are no results, it shows that the microproppant cannot pass the tests at any capacity.

    Microproppants are a new and exciting development in the oil and gas world, but be careful when deciding what to use for the horizontal wells.

  6. MS Industries Provides a New Source for Microproppants

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    Russellville, Alabama

    MS Industries (“MSI”), is a mining and mineral development company and direct mining source located in Russellville Alabama, is a primary producer of a wide array of industrial silica products along with frac sand and silica flour for the oil and gas industries.  MSI is now offering (>99% SiO2) “Super 100” whole-grain microproppants to the oil and gas industries.  By utilizing Super 100, oil well production and lifespan increases with some recent testing and reports suggesting microproppant addition can increase oil well production up to a 15% -30% over a 12-month period.

    “In recent years, microproppant use has been shown to increase production and provide additional benefits in oil well operations”, says John Christmas, COO of MSI.  “One of the biggest obstacles was where purchasers could find a consistent and quality supplier of whole-grain microproppants, that is, until now”.

    MSI’s Super 100, carries up to 25% whole-grain microproppant with particles ranging in the -150 mesh to 325 mesh size.  Super 100 is available direct from MS Industries as are all its industrial silica products and silica flour.

    For more information please contact Brian Pace, MS Industries, 256-383-6740.

  7. Mined in America

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    “Mined in America” Means National Security.

     For decades, there has been a growing national dependence on foreign nations to produce strategic minerals and materials vital to U.S. national security. (U.S. Military Strategic and Critical Materials Reports).

    In many instances, these minerals and materials account for the strategic advantages that the U.S. military relies upon through modern military devices and complex weapons systems. A significant restraint in the ability to source these minerals and materials has a direct impact upon U.S. military readiness and response. Encouraging U.S. mining and production of these strategic and critical materials is of great importance to the national security of the U.S. and to those nations that rely upon U.S. readiness and response. Encouraging the development of strategic and critical materials domestically is a rational and reasonable step in supporting and promoting national security in the realities of the 21st century. Incorporating new ideas, new approaches, and responsible stewardship techniques offer a reasonable way forward also.  Domestic resource development, production, and refining of strategic and critical materials can have a positive economic impact on local economies and communities throughout the U.S. while also serving the national security interests of our nation and abroad.

    That is why MS Industries proudly supports national security and proudly promotes “Mined in America.”