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How many fracturing balls were sold in the US and worldwide in 2012?

Winston, I have no idea nor do I even know how to find out. It is provided by the service companies doing the fracturing and shipped in metal bins. I have never seen an ad, convention paper or exhibit that had a number. One would have to multiply the number of wells fractured by the pounds of fracture proppant used per well. I would hate to even attempt this. A trade association may have the number but I don't have the time or desire to do that extensive a web search.

Fracture "balls" are not what most would describe as a ball. It is the size of sand grains and early in the development of fracturing that is what was used and sometimes still is. This is a fine, almost flour like, clean and uniformly sized sand that is pumped down the hole to keep the fracture open. It is not used to initiate the fracture.

A fluid is pumped down the hole until the formation cracks. This is noted as pumping pressure increases and approaches or passes the estimated formation strength and then the pressure will drop sharply. A crack or fracture has started and the pumping fluid is entering the formation. At that time a slurry of sand, steel balls or as is now popular, ceramic balls are pumped. The continued pumping causes the fracture to "run" and the "balls" are used as to hold the formation open, a "proppant". You must understand that the fracture is not something like a split in pavement or a sidewalk. It is narrow, and many fine but long fractures are more desireable than one wide one. Pencil lead or even pencil, not baseball bat.

If the formation was fractured, pumping was stopped and the well left open at the surface the tremendous weight of the overlying rock would push down on the fracture and cause it to close. The fracturing fluid would be pushed back out. The fracture "balls" are used to support the weight of the overburden and keep the fracture open.
The wells production fluid or gas can flow around the proppant. Fill a glass jar with marbles and you will see that there are connected spaces between them.
When these wells are fractured and first put "on line", much of the fracturing fluid is pushed back out by the oil or gas. A small amount of the proppant also is pushed out. Over time the proppant will be pushed out, crushed by the weight of the overburden or shoved into the formation material and the wells production will slow or even stop.


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Carl Alexander


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