Michigan sand is used in fracking, but details hard to come by

Apr 22, 2016

Sargent Sand Company operates this sand mine in Ludington State Park.
Credit Aaron Selbig

When you think of hydraulic fracturing, Michigan may  not be the first state that comes to mind. But according to The FracTracker Alliance in Cleveland, Ohio – a group that studies the global oil and gas industry – Michigan is playing an increasing role in fracking.

That’s because the fracking process requires a special kind of sand that’s found near the Great Lakes.

Ted Auch is an environmental scientist who works for FracTracker. In a new report, he says the Midwest has become the primary source of silica sand for the oil and gas industry.

But trying to figure out how much sand is going where is a daunting task.

"We are really in the dark with regard to mine productivity," says Auch. "We know how much is being demanded from these wells but we don't know how much is being produced [and] we don't know the methods by which it's traveling. So there's a lot of unknowns."

Auch spoke us during 'All Things Considered' about his efforts to document sand mining in the Midwest.