frac sand on the right (c) http://geology.com
You’ll know from previous posts that there is good reason to be optimistic about Scotland’s renewables and about its oil and gas sector. However, some argue that a shale oil boom, especially in the USA, will hold down the price of other oils and prevent a recovery. It won’t. First there’s this from February 2017:
‘Shale’s best days are coming to an end. U.S. shale oil production, which reshaped the global energy equation, will begin to wane in less than a decade as reserves are drawn down and well output decreases, the Energy Department reported.’
But, that’s not the really bad news for shale oil production; it’s sand or to be precise, not enough sand. You might know that desert sand is useless for construction. Dubai was built with imported sand! You might also know that fracking requires vast quantities of ‘frac sand’ to be pumped along with other materials into wells to break up shale rock and produce oil. Fracking needs a small uniform round form of sand that is not common, is rarely found anywhere near the oil basins, and it’s running out fast. Already, costs are climbing to levels that could easily send fracking from boom to bust even before the oil runs out:
‘I think people are looking at the potential demand numbers, and, for the first time, people are scared that there will not be enough sand to meet the demand…… The increased demand will push sand prices up by 60 percent, hitting the $40 per ton range over the next 18 months…..the real concern is the logistical challenges that come with moving high volumes of sand. Some producers are using a unit train – roughly 75 or more rail cars in a line – on each well…that presents some significant logistical challenges that could hamper production.’
In addition to all of the above, we haven’t even considered the catastrophic damage thousands of wells and now thousands of frac sand quarries are already doing and will do to the landscape.