The process of transporting sand for natural gas extraction from the Marcellus shale rock basin is needed because of the fracking process that must occur. This fracking process is done by mixing water or a propane gel with frac sand and injecting this slurry into the energy well under pressure. The frac sands purpose is to keep the fissures open that are the result of the slurry fracturing the shale rock deposit.
To deliver the frac sand from the quarries where it is recovered, to the wells in the energy fields are a precise path of transportation that has been developed. Most of the larger quarries are on existing railroad lines. This makes the loading of the frac sand into rail cars easy and economically feasible.
This transporting of the frac sand by rail car has been done for nearly as long as the fracking process in energy wells has occurred. This frac sand along with many other bulk items are moved across America by rail because of the amount of load the rail cars can carry and the low price of doing it in this manner.
Unfortunately most of the natural gas and oil wells in need of the frac sand are not on existing rail lines. This is why the need for transloading stations came about. These stations have only one line of business. This is to safely and efficiently transfer the contents of bulk material from rail cars to awaiting tractor trailers so it can be delivered to its final destination.
The frac sand that is brought to the transloading stations can be transferred to delivery trucks at a rate of one rail car an hour per conveyor that is used. It takes five tractor trailers per rail car when this unloading process is being done. This is an important factor when conducting this type of business because of the demurrage charges.
The demurrage charge is what the railroad companies charge when one of their rail cars is idle for over a 24 hour period. By the energy companies using transloading stations that specialize in the transfer of frac sand and other bulk items, this added expense to the transportation cost of the raw materials can be avoided. This allows for a greater profit potential the companies using this service and allows them to lower their process.
The transporting sand for natural gas exploration and the use of the transloading stations is just one way the costs that are passed down to the American consumer are as low as possible.