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Halliburton, U.S. Silica Move Record White Sand Load in Largest Unit Train Ever

Halliburton Co., which performs more pressure pumping in North America than any other oilfield services provider, said it moved with U.S. Silica Holdings Inc. the largest sand unit train of its kind to date, traversing a route from Illinois to Texas.

The record-breaking unit train carried nearly 19,000 tons of U.S. Silica's white sand from its largest plant in Ottawa, IL, to Halliburton's Elmendorf South Texas Sand Plant, which is south of San Antonio. Unit trains are designed to reduce transit time from mine to transload facility. The white sand load was carried via BNSF Railway.

"Utilizing sand unit trains enables Halliburton to respond to customers' needs on a shorter timeline and deliver cost efficient sand on location to drive the lowest cost per boe," said Halliburton's Richard Gonzalez, vice president of production enhancement. "Our extensive infrastructure along with a great working relationship with U.S. Silica highlights our strength in collaborating and engineering solutions to maximize asset value for customers."

The unit train took five days to build and was loaded with 30/50 and 40/70 fracture sand. The Elmendorf plant is able to handle two 115-car unit trains simultaneously and hold 40,000 tons in its eight silos.

"Unit train delivery, leveraging our combined logistical assets, is the most efficient and cost effective way to deliver high volumes of sand in the time constraints required," said U.S. Silica's Don Weinheimer, president of the oil and gas business. "Unit train capability is increasingly critical to our customers success as sand demand per well continues to ramp up."

U.S. Silica is laying plans for a surge in sand proppant. In July it agreed to pay $210 million for New Birmingham Inc. affiliate NBR Sands (see Shale DailyJuly 19). Plans are to more than double operations at the Tyler, TX, facility to 2 million tons/year. The Frederick MD-based commercial silica producer also in July agreed to pay $218.3 million to buy Sandbox Enterprises LLC, a fracture sand logistics company, to help manage the proppant supply chain.

U.S. Silica and its competitors, which include Hi-Crush Partners LP, Fairmount Santrol Holdings Inc. and Superior Silica Sands LC, during 2Q2016 conference calls cited higher proppant intensity (see Shale Daily,Aug. 10).

U.S. Silica CEO Bryan Shinn said in August that even though proppant demand had not picked up significantly, the company was "beginning to see a few green shoots, which may be signs of an impending market recovery."

Whether a recovery has begun should become more apparent in the coming days, as 3Q2016 earnings season begins. Halliburton is scheduled to issue its results on Wednesday (Oct. 19).

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