Between one to three 100-car units per week will be shipped to Refugio when the plant becomes fully operational in March. Each train will travel 1,400 miles to carry approximately 10,500 tons of sand to Refugio.
Tim Wernicke, who oversees the overall development of the plant, said the sand is shipped all the way from Wisconsin for an important reason.
“The Wisconsin sand is round and Texas sand has a jagged edge,” he said. “The round sand is stronger.”
Most of the sand mined at the EOG is destined for the South Texas Eagle Ford where EOG is the largest crude oil producer in the play.
EOG produces approximately 53,000 barrels of crude oil equivalents per day as of Sept. 30, 2011. The need for sand increased with EOG’s 610,000 net-acre position in the Eagle Ford.
“Having the facilities to provide self-sourced sand for our operations was a key objective for EOG this year,” said Mark G. Papa, chairman and chief executive officer. “Mining and processing some of our own sand rather than purchasing it from a third party is one way to lower well completion costs in key resource plays such as the Eagle Ford.”
Once fully operational, the Refugio EOG plant will employ 35 to 40 employees.
Ten sand storage silos have been built at the Refugio plant. Each silo is 120 feet high and measures 28 feet in diameter. During construction that began in November 2010, between 70 to 80 workers were employed, and up to 100 as the silos were being built.
“It took one month to build the forms,” said Wernicke. “Continuous concrete was poured around the clock. Eight days later, it was completely poured. It was an amazing logistical effort.”
When the trains arrive from Wisconsin, enough track has been laid to allow the trains to pull completely onto the facility. The cars are enclosed and can be unloaded without regard of the weather.
“There is plenty of space on site so there will never be the possibility of having track blocked,” Wernicke said.
Two operators will man the control room. The state-of-the-art plant is fully automated, from the unloading of the trains to the loading of sand onto trucks.
Throughout construction, special consideration was given for safety and to alleviate perceived problems.
The entry and exit point was adjusted so that large 18-wheelers leaving the facility will pull out into 35 mile-per-hour traffic vs. 70 mph highway traffic.
A holding pond was also constructed on site to handle drainage so that Dry Creek will not back up.
“We looked at the footprint of where flood water would be,” Wernicke said. “When we put in the rail spur and private roadway, it was built up significantly and a slice was taken out of the flood plain. The retention pond will hold significantly more water than before.”
The pond is expected hold up to six feet of water, giving Dry Creek a chance to drain.
With the first shipment of sand expected to arrive this month, the plant is also expected to be fully operational by March.
“The technology of using sand unlocks crude oil and natural gas that was inaccessible before,” said K Leonard, EOG public relations. “The technology increases the availability of domestic oil and gas reserves.”
The price of natural gas in the United States dropped 25 percent of what it was before the Eagle Ford Shale resources were tapped into, Leonard said.
A second benefit is that companies like EOG will continue to invest in plants like the one in Refugio County.