August 22, 2013

"The hilly, wooded area of southwestern Wisconsin where frac sand mining has exploded goes by the romantic name of the Driftless Area..."

"... so called because it was bypassed by the glaciers that ironed flat the rest of the Midwest during the last Ice Age. 'It is the most beautiful part of the state,' said Kevin Lien, the director of the Trempealeau County Department of Land Management. It is also, thanks to its unique geology, the best source in the nation for diamond-strong kernels of silica sand: smooth, round grains of almost pure quartz that can be found in lower Wisconsin’s sandstone bluffs."

From a New Republic article with the polemical title "Scott Walker's Sand Grab: Wisconsin Wants a Piece of the Fracking Boom, No Matter Who Gets Hurt."

43 comments:

David said...

New Republic is late as usual. The fracking sand boom is over. There's a glut and prices have tanked.

But Walker is evil. No question about it.

Cedarford said...

"There is accumulating evidence that mine emissions, when poorly regulated, can be toxic to those who live and work nearby. Frac sand facilities have the potential to ruin groundwater reserves."

===============
Fucking green idiots!
It's just fucking sand!
Sand!
Like sand on the fucking beaches at green/liberal havens like Martha's Vineyard.
The same fucking sand used in concrete and in water filtration plants.

traditionalguy said...

So sand is holy ground now, and it is being disrespected by that Evil Man, Scott Walker.

Silica is the most abundant material that exists in the universe. Has it become evil now to use it for "man made" things...like glass?

Or in this case extract from way under it the natural gas deposits?

surfed said...

Was by there this summer. Spent a few days in Lacrosse. What a beautiful area. Thinking of dragging my English Seahawk sailboat up from Florida and transiting the upper Mississippi for a week. Lovely area that.

Inga said...

I'm conflicted. It obviously is bringing in tax revenue and money being spent by the mine employees, who often are not local to the community. Jobs to locals, not so much.

My sister lives in Jackson County. When visiting her in summer, booms from the frac sand mines can be heard. The locals are complaining about the noise, the air and the constant traffic day and night around the mines. The Amish farmers complain about their nervous cows. This is truly the most beautiful part of our state, I'd hate to see it despoiled.

I find it amusing that Walker is now a Choo Choo advocate. A Sand Train.

gadfly said...

Sand and gravel mining throughout the U.S. is as common as sand itself and almost everyone has seen a sand and gravel pit near home. Wiki says that the business is worth a billion dollars annually. It sounds concrete to me.

Wisconsin is not at the top of the sand mine list, so it is the word "frac" not "sand" that sets off the media and the religious supporters of the Church of Gaia.

Who knew that the bullies on the beaches have been causing silicosis and the ruination of sea turtle nests just by kicking up sand?

Richard Fagin said...

"diamond-strong kernels of silica sand" That should tell you everything you need to know about the New Republic's knowledge of fracturing. It's ZERO.

I suppose giving money to the Saudis who fund terrorists that kill Americans is less of a public health risk than imaginary water and air pollution from hydraulic fracturing subsurface formations.

Original Mike said...

"Silica is the most abundant material that exists in the universe."

Silica is the most abundant material in the earth's crust. Hydrogen is the most abundant baryonic matter in the universe.

SteveR said...

There's always something when you don't actually have to do something besides complain.

Sam L. said...

Oh Noes! Libs perturbed! Severely!

Mark said...

If this sand is the same as everywhere else, then why do they all have to mine the driftless region?

And if this sand is different [thus requiring these exact deposits], how can anyone claim that it's just the same as sand on Martha's Vineyard/etc as above?

I never knew I would find a bunch of geologists on a law blog.

I am sure glad this mining isn't happening in Dane County on any significant scale.

TosaGuy said...

"I find it amusing that Walker is now a Choo Choo advocate. A Sand Train."

Trains are the most efficient way on land to move freight. They are also one of the most inefficient at moving people. The primary line that hauls sand out of Wisconsin also carries Amtrak's Empire Builder. Any improvement to that line for sand, improves it for Amtrak.

I say this as someone who rides Amtrak frequently and owns stock in freight railroads.

Also, these sand mines are clustered around Fort McCoy, where I spent many a summer digging foxholes in the stuff. We called it sugar sand since it had that consistency.

Big Mike said...

@Original Mike, good catch. Nice that some people stayed awake in science class even if scientific ignorance is a prerequisite for writing for TNR.

Can somebody tell me what is "progressive" about people trying to freeze everything in place?

traditionalguy said...

Sand also called silica dioxide like carbon dioxide is a material, but hydrogen is an element. Sand is what they found was the surface on the moon and on mars. The hydrogen was all gone, MIA like the water they coveted finding

Original Mike said...

@Mark - Dane County has lots of quarries. I'm struggling to see what's special about the "sand mines."

traditionalguy said...

Sand is soft on impact compared to clay. So jump school is at Benning where clay abounds but The Airborne lives and jumps daily at Bragg where sand abounds.

Is jumping on sacred sands evil too?

El Pollo Raylan said...

If the high quality SiO2 were being used instead to make solar panels or even microchips, would liberals be so conflicted? It's the association with fracking that pisses them off, not the mining per se.

El Pollo Raylan said...

Can somebody tell me what is "progressive" about people trying to freeze everything in place?

When things like development are frozen in place, everyone becomes poorer and by definition more equal. This is the desired end-goal of preservation instead of conservation.

Hagar said...

Ottawa sand is very high grade, good quality stuff with many uses.

Many years ago, ehen I lived in Illinois a while, I sometimes thought that if I could somehow trade a cubic mile of plain old Illinois clay for a cubic mile of plain old New Mexico sand, I could become a gadzillionaire in both places.

Rocco said...

I think the miners should just tell the environmentalists to go pound sand.

garage mahal said...

Can somebody tell me what is "progressive" about people trying to freeze everything in place?

What's conservative about digging up half the state for frac sand or blowing up the Penokee Hills for low grade taconite?

Rocco said...

@Inga:
"I'm conflicted. It obviously is bringing in tax revenue and money being spent by the mine employees, who often are not local to the community. Jobs to locals, not so much.

How do the miners do their job? Are they able to telecommute?

At minimum, even if we posit that the miners are "outsiders" who only work during the week and then go home, they are still paying for local lodging and food while they are there. All of which helps the local economy. Instead of "goin' down the hole", maybe the locals could start a new business where before there hadn't been the capacity for.

More likely, at least some of those outside workers might actually move in and become locals. As long as the workers aren't criminals, aren't on the dole, and truly become part of the community, I don't see what the problem is.

Original Mike said...

"Sand also called silica dioxide like carbon dioxide is a material, but hydrogen is an element."

What, pray tell, is a "material"?

Original Mike said...

"If the high quality SiO2 were being used instead to make solar panels or even microchips, would liberals be so conflicted?"

In the abstract, no. But as soon as an actual spade-full of earth was turned, they would. It's an offense to Gaia.

El Pollo Raylan said...

Pure silica (SiO2) was long suspected to contain another element besides oxygen, but its affinity for oxygen is so great that no one could set it free despite many unsuccessful attempts. It took hydrofluoric acid to displace the oxide, followed by reduction with highly reactive potassium metal to yield the free element. It was first named silicium because it was assumed to be metallic. Only later did it acquire the name silicon -- as an homage to carbon -- which it more closely resembles. The Germans still call it Silizium

El Pollo Raylan said...

What's conservative about digging up half the state for frac sand or blowing up the Penokee Hills for low grade taconite?

Um, Scott Walker?

Seriously garage, "conservation" means wise and responsible use of natural resources; "preservation" means no use of natural resources. Lefties are stuck on preservation and conflate "conservation" with "exploitation."

Original Mike said...

"What's conservative about digging up half the state for frac sand or blowing up the Penokee Hills for low grade taconite?"

We need oil and we need iron. Simple as that. Call us the reality-based community.

El Pollo Raylan said...

@Garage: Mining SiO2 is fundamentally different than mining coal or an ore. The rock is pulverized and used "as is." There's no extraction as with coal and iron mining, leaving behind waste rock and minerals. The most "toxic" by-product is the dust itself. Sandstone has been mined for a longtime in Wisconsin. This is more or less pulverized sandstone.

Mark said...

"@Mark - Dane County has lots of quarries. I'm struggling to see what's special about the "sand mines."

It's not the same sand, it's not treated the same in both places [processing of frac sand], and the scale is completely different.

Frac sand is meant to stay in suspension for a long time, meaning any runoff events are a big problem in an area prone to flooding like the driftless region is.

The true problem with frac sand mining is that the removal of the undesirable micro-size particles. Anything below about 0.1mm is not desired and not shipped, and the processing to remove it tends to leave a lot of problematic fine particulate that easily can become airborne [and will be hanging around the site for perpetuity].

If you don't visit that county on a windy day, no problem ... but I sure as hell wouldn't want to own a house within a few miles of a mine.

But hell, let's dig all this stuff and let our children sort out the health and environmental effects. The greatest generations of humanity were the ones focused on a quick buck now, right?

Richard Fagin said...

Hey, Mark:

BSc. Geology and Geophysics, MIT, 1978.

Yeah there are geologists on here. Some of them are even patent attorneys who write and prosecute patent applications for companies that perform.......HYDRAULIC FRACTURING!!!

Keystone said...

Anything that creates jobs for burly men must attacked.

Michael K said...

"What's conservative about digging up half the state for frac sand or blowing up the Penokee Hills for low grade taconite?"

Wow ! How many million cubic miles of sand is that ?

From Wiki: "In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the United States was mining such an abundance of iron ore of high quality that taconite was considered an uneconomic waste product. By the end of World War II, however, much of the high-grade iron ore in the United States had been exhausted. Taconite became valued as a new source of the metal."

Just trying to understand the left. It's tough.

Big Mike said...

@garage, why do I believe that you would be perfectly happy with mining Wisconsin sand and "blowing up the Penokee Hills" if only it was going to be used for a left-wing approved cause?

Or at least being mined with a Democrat as governor?

traditionalguy said...

AS I recall the southern coast of Lake Michigan( which in northernmost Indiana) is one huge sand dune. All those winters of storms over millions of years left enough sand there that we never need to fear "peak sand."

D. Luthor said...

Good to see a Trempealeau post.

Original Mike said...

El Pollo Raylan said: "Pure silica (SiO2) was long suspected to contain another element besides oxygen, but its affinity for oxygen is so great that no one could set it free despite many unsuccessful attempts."

I am currently studying rock crystallization (e.g. Bowen's Reaction Series), and am trying to find the temperature at which silica disassociates (it must come apart at some temperature/pressure, shouldn't it?). Can you point me in the right direction?

El Pollo Raylan said...

@Original Mike:

Maybe try a volcano or a Tokamak reactor? It sounds tough to do without providing a place to park the oxygen atoms. The pyrolysis stoichiometry would be:

heat + SiO2 => Si + O2 which of course would like to go in reverse at high temperatures.

You can rearrange the Si and O at high temps: fused silica is made by heating sand or quartz to 3000 C in an electric arc; but even then you still get a rearranged candy-floss species of SiO2.

The steel industry uses most of the silicon produced from sand. Ferrosilicon is made from sand, coke and iron ore. CO2, a by-product, is where the oxygen winds up.

95-98% pure Si is commercially made by heating sand or quartzite with coke as a reductant:

SiO2 + 2C => Si + 2CO

The SiO2 must be kept in excess to avoid co-producing silicon carbide, SiC. CO has lots of established uses in chemistry.

The highest grade silicon (used for chips) is made via electrolysis in molten salts. In this case, the voltage is providing oomph to break the Si-O bond. This process is actually very old but being intensely worked at this time. The oxygen winds up as CO because carbon electrodes are used and are cheap but in theory an inert electrode could co-produce only O2.

Irradiation is another way to break bonds besides heat: but quartz is immune even to UV light -- it's like a rock! ;)

Original Mike said...

Not to hijack the thread, but I'm after the temperature at which silica forms geologically. Rocks start to crystalize as the melt cools through 1200-degrees C, but those crystals of olivine and Ca-rich plagioclase form from already formed silica molecules. I want to know at what temperature the silica formed. I have been unable to find this.

Titus said...

Sorry, but I have been to Superior and Beloit in back and everything in between.

Wisconsin is not what I would call scenic.

Get an ocean, a major city or some mountains and then it may qualify as "beautiful".

Liberate Wisconsin First said...

Scott Walker remembers creating jobs as assemblyman in Wisconsin . It was easy with ALEC. 32000 UNION public sector jobs. It is not as easy this time with out using your tax dollars. Scott Walker has created ALL Wisconsin`s budget problems working for ALEC. In 1997 Walker and Prosser as state assemblymen championed for ALEC with truth in sentencing telling the legislatures it would not cost a dime it was to give judges not parole boards the control over sentencing. Then Walker filibustered to stop sentencing changes after the fact misleading ALL the legislatures. With out the sentencing changes Wisconsin`s prisons quadrupled over night. Most people sentenced to 2 years now had to serve as much as 6o years. As the Wisconsin Budget watch Blog shows . Stopping just a percentage of these long sentences Wisconsin would save 707 million per year. Wisconsin could have free tuition colleges. It shows Wisconsin has wasted 35 billion if you add the numbers to the state budget since 1997. Not including the building new or remodeling of 71 courthouses & 71 county jails & 273 police stations and dozens of prisons 28 billion plus interest. The total is over 70 BILLION plus the 100 Billion spent by social services to support prisoners families because the bread winner was a political prisoner as US Att gen Eric Holder explained. Then farming out prisoners in several states until the courts realized it was not allowed in the Wisconsin constitution. Wisconsin then hired 32000 union public sector workers to fill the jobs housing the prisners from deputies , judges, district attorneys all owe Walker for creating there jobs. 32000 UNION PUBLIC SECTOR JOBS. This cost taxpayers over a half million per day to house these EXTRA prisoners per day in Milwaukee county alone. This your reason for budget problems in Wisconsin. Big spender big government Scott Walker. Why does he not work for the people he is taking his check from the people ?
Wisconsin Budget watch blog has a great article on this.

garage mahal said...

@O.M.

The reality based community, the people that actually live around the noise, the clouds of dust, the people forced to breath the fine particulates, the convoy of trucks day and night, are starting to stick up for their communities. Trempeleau County just enacted a 1 year moritorium on anymore new mines. And just tonight the Bridgeport mine was voted down. Good for them.

Original Mike said...

@Titus - How is the ocean "beautiful" but Lake Superior not?

Rusty said...

"What's conservative about digging up half the state for frac sand or blowing up the Penokee Hills for low grade taconite?"


See if you can make this an even more hyperbolic statement. Throw in some dead seals or polar bears.