Sand has been a key component in hydraulic fracturing since its inception. One of the challenges of its use is the respirable crystalline silica dust generated during sand transfer which can negatively impact worker health and safety. The use of increasing volumes of proppant sand per well, the limitations and availability of current dust control systems and growing demand for lower respirable crystalline silica dust levels are driving the need for new, innovative technologies to effectively address the problem.
Traditionally, personal protective equipment (PPE) and mechanical dust suppression technologies such as vacuum systems have been used to reduce silica dust during hydraulic fracturing. PPE has been shown to be effective at lowering respirable crystalline silica dust levels for individuals, but must be correctly used and properly maintained in order to be effective. As a result, health and regulatory organizations recommend using engineered controls as the first line of defense against respirable silica dust.
Mechanical dust control systems that incorporate vacuum trucks is one example of an engineered solution conventionally used to reduce silica dust levels during hydraulic fracturing. These systems pull respirable crystalline silica dust from the air at a transfer point into a collection system for dust collection and disposal. While mechanical systems provide some engineered controls at transfer points where they can be used, the space needed onsite, and the setup, maintenance and breakdown requirements of such systems limit their mobility, leaving areas exposed. Mechanical dust suppression systems must also be paid for when not being used.
The full article, along with all maps and graphs, is available in Issue 2 of Shale Gas International Magazine and can be found on page 20.