Reservoir Sediment Can be Used as Fracking Proppant

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Instead of requiring costly dredging to remove sediment buildup behind water reservoirs and diversions, sediment from reservoirs in the Missouri River Basin could actually be used as fracking proppant feedstock, also known as frac sand, according to a recently published U.S. Geological Survey study

Instead of requiring costly dredging to remove sediment buildup behind water reservoirs and diversions, sediment from reservoirs in the Missouri River Basin could actually be used as fracking proppant feedstock, also known as frac sand, according to a recently published U.S. Geological Survey study.

Sediment buildup from waterways can negatively impact infrastructure life span, public water supplies, hydroelectric power generation and recreation. Using this material as potential frac sand, which is a specialized type of sand added to fluids during hydrofracking, could defray some costs of mitigating the problematic sediment buildup.

“Sediments carried by the Loup River, whose headwaters are in the Sand Hills in Nebraska, are already being used as a source of proppant sand for industry,” said Ron Zelt, a USGS scientist and the lead author of the study. “Like the Loup River, parts of the Niobrara River are also in the Sand Hills.”

USGS scientists investigated the potential of reservoir sediments in the delta headwaters of Lewis and Clark Lake in Nebraska and South Dakota, downstream from the Niobrara River, to produce sources of proppant sands similar to those from the Loup River. They collected and analyzed 71 sediment samples at various depths from 25 locations, and found that 48 percent of the samples were the adequate size, shape and strength to be used as frac sand.

The scientists also analyzed particular methods that can be used to identify and assess sediments for fracking-related commercial products.

“Information from the new study could shift how deposited reservoir sediment is mitigated, and how recovered sediments potentially could be viable to various industries,” Zelt said.

For more information on USGS science in Nebraska, please visit the USGS Nebraska website.