Frac sand -- used in hydraulic fracturing to extract oil, gas from shale -- in short supply as demand, prices rise along with growing shale production; environmentalists say sand mining creates carcinogenic dust, leads to land erosion

LOS ANGELES , September 22, 2011 () – EOG Resources Inc. is facing opposition to a sand mining operation it plans in Cooke County, Texas, in an attempt to shore up supplies of increasingly scarce sand used in hydraulic fracturing, reported Reuters on Sept. 21.

Local residents and environmentalists claim that sand mining creates dust with carcinogenic particles that can be harmful when inhaled, and mining operations lead to land erosion that can cause soil runoff into streams and rivers.

Cooke County officials have requested a hearing on a state air quality permit that EOG still needs before it can finish the mine, Reuters reported.

The plant will meet all air emissions standards of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said EOG in a statement. In addition to using the latest emissions technology, the company said water for the project would come from wells drilled below the area’s drinking water aquifer.

More than 500 people attended a meeting in August to discuss the project, said Stan Endres, city manager for Muenster, a town about 15 miles from the site, reported Reuters.

The Houston, Texas-based oil and gas producer also plans two more sand mines in Wisconsin. It current has one each in Wisconsin and Texas.

The so-called frac sand -- which is used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations to extract oil or gas from shale rock – is in short supply, with demand and prices rising along with the increase in shale oil and gas production, Reuters reported.

From 2000 to 2009, use of industrial sand for fracking has quadrupled, said Tom Dolley, mineral commodity specialist at the U.S. Geological Survey, noting that there is a “gold rush” to find the material.

An estimated 6.5 million tonnes of sand was used for fracking in 2009 and that figure should double in 2010, according to government estimates.

A long-term shortage of the sand is probably, said Mike Breard, an energy analyst with Hodges Capital Management in Dallas, Texas, reported Reuters.

The primary source of this article is Reuters, London, England, on Sept. 21, 2011.

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