Ceramic products company Saint-Gobain is developing a ceramic proppant manufacturing plant in Saline County, AR. The company said its proppants division will build a 100,000-square-foot facility on 68 acres at a cost of $100 million.

The facility is expected to employ up to 140 when production begins by the end of next year. The plant will manufacture ceramic proppants, which are spherical beads about the size of a grain of sand that maintain integrity under extreme pressure. Proppants are inserted into underground fractures in oil and gas wells to prop open the fracture and increase productivity of the wells.

A company spokesman said the plant’s future capacity is proprietary but product would be delivered to customers in North America, not exported. He said customer demand for the company’s proppant products was up, but he could not say whether this was related to increasing development in North American oil and gas shale plays.

Saint-Gobain’s proppants division currently operates two manufacturing facilities in Arkansas. One is a proppants manufacturing facility in Fort Smith. This was the world’s first ceramic production plant. The other facility is in Saline County and supplies materials used in the proppant manufacturing process.

“The increasing global demand for affordable energy is creating greater activity among oil and gas drilling companies, whose need for proppants will exceed our ability to supply them from Fort Smith alone,” said John Crowe, CEO of Saint-Gobain Corp., Saint-Gobain’s North American holding company. “Saline County is the perfect location because of its proximity to many of our major oil and gas customers…”

Saint-Gobain’s North American headquarters are in Valley Forge, PA; the company has more than 265 locations in North America.