ArrMaz’s SandTec, a silica frac sand coating technology, reduces respirable silica dust generated during hydraulic fracturing by up to 99 percent, according to the company. ArrMaz is already helping hydraulic fracturing operations quickly and easily meet the new silica dust exposure limit with SandTec.
Since 2011, the use of silica sand proppant per well in hydraulic fracturing has been steadily increasing. Exploration and production companies have discovered if they use more sand when performing hydraulic fracturing, they are able to increase well production. The sand helps prop open the formation, allowing hydrocarbons to flow more freely. The transfer of sand proppant, however, generates respirable silica dust which, when inhaled, can impact worker health if not handled properly.
Since September 2013, OSHA has been evaluating new proposed regulations for respirable crystalline silica, which it estimates affects almost 17,000 workers engaged in support activities for oil and gas operations. On March 23, 2016, OSHA announced its final rule on occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The new rule reduces the permissible exposure limit for respirable silica dust to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air effective June 23, 2016. The hydraulic fracturing industry has until June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date, to comply.
The rule also requires that hydraulic fracturing operations use engineering controls as the first line of defense to protect workers against silica dust. The compliance deadline for engineering controls is June 23, 2021. As an engineering control, SandTec is more efficient than bulky mechanical systems (such as vacuum trucks and ventilation equipment) which are difficult to mobilize onsite, require significant space, present handling risks, and are time consuming and expensive to set up, maintain and break down. Mechanical systems also do not provide protection at all transfer points. SandTec solves these challenges by applying a microscopic coating to frac sand proppant to control and minimize silica dust generation whenever and wherever proppant is transferred.
SandTec provides continuous protection from silica dust starting from the sand mine all the way to the hydraulic fracturing wellhead. It is easy to apply with no drying or curing required, and is biorenewable and biodegradeable addressing environmental concerns. Field results show it is effective in reducing silica dust to within OSHA’s new exposure limit. These characteristics make it the ideal solution for hydraulic fracturing operations to quickly and cost-effectively comply with OSHA’s final rule,” said John Suldickas, commercial manager for oil and gas at ArrMaz.
ArrMaz’s engineers and technical experts continue to work with companies in the oil and gas sector to customize the SandTec system to meet their specific hydraulic fracturing needs.