At least one company is paying attention to the clouds of dust blowing around frac sites and doing something about it.
A system of equipment called SandStorm is used for storing and unloading frac sand. It replaces sand silos and pneumatic blowing systems. SandStorm does not rely on PPE, dust containment technology, and other band-aid solutions to do the safety work. Instead, it uses enclosed conveyor technology to prevent dust in the first place. The manufacturer, Propell, calls it a solution to airborne silica dust.
It’s mobile, remote-controlled, and made up of:
- 3-6 GravityBoxes for storing large volumes of sand (550,000 lbs. each)
- 1 ViperBelt integrated proppant loader
- 1-2 horizontal and 1 incline VectorBelt conveyor
- 1 HydraBear — a hydraulic power unit
How it Works
The idea is fairly simple: dust-elimination features are built into the system from the transport unloading point through to the blender hopper.
GravityBoxes store frac sand and use gravity to transfer it through metering gates onto conveyors – replacing fuel-powered engines, blowers, dust filters, and augers which stir up dust.
Sand is delivered to these boxes via a mobile proppant loader, called the ViperBelt, which has an enclosed, telescoping conveyor. One operator controls it remotely, and it loads bins faster than with pneumatics (up to 10X faster) – no blowing sand involved.
Next, enclosed VectorBelt conveyors transfer the sand to the blender. The conveyors’ transition points are designed to prevent particles from becoming airborne – replacing open conveyors covered with tarps and vacuums attempting to suck up the escaping dust.
All of this is controlled and set up by the Hydrabear, a remote-controlled, self-propelled all-terrain hydraulic power unit which sets up and operates the system.
Altogether, the system avoids creating dust instead of trying to contain it. Typical frac sand delivery equipment literally blows dust, but this system has the ability to practically eliminate it, resulting in about 0.1% material loss – a tiny pile of sand at the end of the day.