Ceramic proppants have been under great duress recently, both literally and figuratively. Though acknowledged for their higher quality and performance, ceramics currently face decreased demand as more drillers are leaning towards the cheaper frac sands instead. In this article, we will explore the proppant industry, specifically the current state of ceramics and its future outlook. Before we jump into that however, let me start by giving a brief overview of fracking as well as useful terms in describing proppants. I believe the introduction will be beneficial for our discussion later on.
Overview of the Proppant Industry
Hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking", is a process by which petroleum fluids can be extracted from deep underground. This is done by pumping large amounts of proppant mixture-typically a slurry of 90% water, 9% proppants, and 1% chemicals-into the drill hole; the hydraulic pressure forms fractures in the rocks. Once the well has been sufficiently stimulated, the pressure is released, and the proppants in the fluid keep the cracks open by serving as props, without which the closure stress from the weight of the rocks above would quickly close the cracks. The network of cracks creates a large surface area through which petroleum fluids can flow and be extracted to the surface. As a result, fracking has enabled previously non-recoverable resources to be successfully retrieved. The primary beneficiary of this process is the extraction of resources from shale rock formations which, with its high porosity (capacity to hold fluids) and low permeability (ability to let fluids flow through), has historically prevented oil and gas to be extracted at economical…
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(November 4, 2014 - 4:55 PM EST)
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