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Overview

frac sand
St. Peter frac sand. Photo by Mary Ellen Benson, USGS.

Nonmetallic industrial minerals represent the largest sector of the domestic nonfuel minerals industry both in terms of production and their contribution to gross national product. Nonmetallic industrial minerals are geologic materials that are mined for their commerical value, but are not fuel and are not sources of metals (metallic minerals). Individually and in aggregate, the significance of nonmetallic industrial mineral commodities in our lifestyle and economy cannot be overstated. In an average year, metallics account for about one-third of the U.S. non-fuel mineral production, aggregates (ex. sand, stone, gravel) account for one third, and the other non-metallics account for the remaining one third. For this reason alone, USGS continues to maintain and foster expertise and research on nonmetallic industrial mineral resources and contributes to the discovery, development, and science of industrial mineral deposits. In 2012, this project initiated a multi-year effort to characterize domestic nonmetallic industrial mineral resources that are important for national infrastructure, agriculture, and energy development. Initial activities include (1) a national-scale compilation of production data, providing a snapshot of the nonmetallic industrial mineral deposits that were of significance through the 20th century and earliest part of this century, (2) an overview of frac sand, (3) an introductory study of potash, and (4) sand and gravel in southwestern Wyoming.

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Project Activities

Nonmetallic Industrial Minerals - Focus Areas

Industrial Minerals Through Time

Contacts: Anna Wilson, awilson@usgs.gov and William Langer, blanger@usgs.gov

Nonmetallic industrial minerals represent the largest sector of the domestic nonfuel minerals industry. In 2012, we began a multi-year effort to characterize the domestic nonmetallic industrial mioneral resources that are important for national infrastructure, agriculture, and energy development. In 2007, at the 43rd Forum of the Geology of Industrial Minerals, USGS research geologists Bill Langer and Anna Wilson presented a paper explaining a novel approach for organizing and visualizing the industrial mineral commodities that were produced in 17 Western States during a century of U.S. growth. Utilizing data from the Minerals Yearbook from 1906 to 2005, they were able to find recorded production for 28 industrial minerals in the 17 States over that time period. The 2007 study will be updated and modified as necessary.

potash Crystals of potash with a coin for reference. The coin (a US penny) is 19 mm (0.75 in) in diameter and copper in color. This image is from the "Minerals in Your World" project, a cooperative effort between the USGS and the Mineral Information Institute, and was featured in the "Minerals and Materials Photo Gallery" on the U.S House Subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources website.

Potash

Contact: Douglas Yager, dyager@usgs.gov

We plan to publish an updated report about the agricultural importance, geologic deposit models, geochemistry, sources (both historical and new), mining technology, and global supply chain of potash. The updated report will address recent research that investigates potash sources from silicate minerals and rocks that may be effective when used in agricultural applications.

Sand and Gravel in Southwestern Wyoming

Contact: Anna Wilson, awilson@usgs.gov

This research is conducted in collaboration with the Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative Project, a multi-agency, multi-disciplinary study. We are refining a geospatial map of sand and gravel deposits relative to Quaternay and unconsolidated to loosely consolidated deposits.

Phosphate Deposit Models

Contact: Mary Ellen Benson, mbenson@usgs.gov

We plan to publish a report on sedimentary phosphate (phosphorite) that uses current theories of phosphogenesis to support a new integrative classification system for the formation of phosphorite deposits. A new geospatial map with U.S. phosphate deposit and occurences is also planned.

Frac Sand Resources

Contacts: Mary Ellen Benson, mbenson@usgs.gov, and Anna Wilson, awilson@usgs.gov

Frac sand is used by the petroleum industry as a proppant in hydraulic facturing to increase the flow of oil and gas from unconventional reservoirs. The objectives of this task are to describe the physical characteristics and geologic origin of frac sand, identify the formations known to produce or to have potential to produce frac sand, and track where frac sand is being used.

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Products

Map of frac sand resources in the U.S.
Map of producing and potential frac sand and resin-coated source units in the conterminous United States, from Rock Products, May 2015. Large version of image (1.14 MB).

Publications

Benson, M.E., and Wilson, A.B., 2015, Frac sand in the United States—A geological and industry overview: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015–1107, 78 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20151107.

Benson, M.E., and Wilson, A.B., 2015, Frac sand sources in the United States: Frac sand insider resource guide, a supplement to Rock Products, May 2015, p. 33-59.

Yager, D.B., 2016, Potash—A vital agricultural nutrient sourced from geologic deposits: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016-1167, 28 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20161167.

Presentations and Posters

Benson, Mary Ellen, and Wilson, Anna Burack, 2015, A geological overview of frac sand in the United States: Denver, CO, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Annual Conference and Expo., Technical Program, p. 43.

Benson, Mary Ellen, and Wilson, Anna Burack, 2014, A geological overview of frac sand in the United States [PDF file, 1.43 MB]: Pittsburgh, PA, 2014 Frac Sand Insider Conference, November 17, 2014.

Wilson, Anna Burack, and Benson, Mary Ellen, 2015, Where in the U.S. is the naturally-occurring Frac Sand?: Denver, CO, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration Annual Conference and Expo., Technical Program, p. 43-44.

Wilson, Anna Burack, and Benson, Mary Ellen, 2014, Where in the U.S. is the naturally-occurring Frac Sand? [PDF file, 1.73 MB]: Pittsburgh, PA, 2014 Frac Sand Insider Conference, November 17, 2014.

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The use of firm, trade, and brand names is for identification purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by the U.S. government.

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