With nine existing or proposed frac sand mines, Chippewa County has seen a boom in the industry.

In fact, it has been right in the middle of the boom.

Now it appears that North Dakota — one of the main sources for the sand from this area — could become a competitor for the sand.

The frac sand is used to extract natural gas and oil with a process called hydraulic fracturing.  Sand, water and chemicals are pumped underground at high pressure to break up shale rock and allow the oil to flow.

North Dakota state geologist Ed Murphy says some soils in the southwestern part of that state have enough aluminum oxide to have potential use as proppant.

A geological survey recently published a map of the aluminum oxide deposits in North Dakota.

Murphy says if oil producers could have a source of sand proppant in North Dakota, it would save time and shipping costs. Now, the proppant is imported.

He’s expecting the industry to follow up with its own studies.

The sand mining industry in Chippewa County dates back to May 2008, when Canadian Sand and Proppants said it would take out sand from a mine in the town of Howard. EOG Resources eventually took over the operation.

The company’s sand processing plant in Chippewa Falls, one of the largest in the nation, has a tax evaluation of $65.8 million.

EOG has since been joined in Chippewa County with mines by Preferred Sands, Chippewa Sand Company, Superior Silica Sands and Western Sand Company.

Taylor Creek Transit has county permits and a developer’s agreement with the town to open a mine in the town of Auburn.

And in Dunn County, Texas-based Vista Sands is seeking to rezone from ag to industrial property on State Highway 12 to build a transload facility adjacent to the Union Pacific railroad tracks.

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