Two frac sand mines have resumed operations near Eau Claire and Menomonie, Wis., after more than a year-long downturn in demand for the sand used in drilling for oil and natural gas, according to Rich Kremer at Wisconsin Public Radio.
Texas-based Hi-Crush Proppants has reopened its Augusta facility while Ohio-based Fairmount Santrol has reopened a mine and processing center in Menomonie. Both shut down after prices and demand for Wisconsin's Northern White industrial sand crashed in 2015.
Fairmount Operations Manager Rich Budinger is optimistic demand is beginning to rebound. “We're bringing back a one-shift operation, essentially seven employees are coming back to work in that location and then we're going to be producing industrial, recreation products is going to be our focus," Budinger said.
That means instead of just producing sand for oil and gas drillers, the Menomonie plant will focus on sand used in applications like golf courses, foundries and glass-making.
According to the Leader-Telegram, almost a year after 27 people were laid off at the Hi-Crush Proppants frac sand mining operation near Augusta, Wis., the plant has reopened to about 75 percent capacity with hopes of hiring more employees in the Spring of 2017.
Hi-Crush, which also has an operation near Whitehall, Wis., in Trempealeau County, said the start-up at the Augusta plant in Eau Claire County was due to “some orders that came in that we couldn’t quite fill,” including a new contract.
Texas-based Hi-Crush announced in October 2015 in a filing with the state Department of Workforce Development that it was laying off 27 workers and suspending production at its site at S11011 Highway M near Augusta, with positions ending November 2015. Hi-Crush officials said it was uncertain how long the layoffs would continue.
At the peak of the frac sand boom in 2014, Fairmount Santrol employed more than 100 employees at three mines in Menomonie, Bay City and Maiden Rock. Budinger said reopening the Menomonie mine also positions the company for any increases in demand for sand used in hydrofracking.