The increased use of hydraulic fracturing to increase the production of gas and oil has increased the demand for sand, so plants dedicated to the production and handling of silica sand used for fracking are being built at a rapid rate to meet that demand.
Rapat Corp., with headquarters in Hawley, Minn., and a location in the Philippines, has been a leader in engineered solutions for industrial and agricultural material-handling needs for the past 30 years. Rapat recently started lending its expertise to frac sand distributors, providing customized material-handling solutions while meeting the tight deadlines of its new clientele.
Todd Sparrow, general manager for Rapat, has seen the demand for the company’s products in the frac sand industry increase in the past five years. “Fracking sand is a momentum market,” he explains. “There are great opportunities for people in the sand industry right now, so they want it [the plants] done quickly.”
Rapat’s experience in industrial applications extends to designing plants dealing with lime, urea, fertilizers and other products similar in nature to sand. This gives Rapat a head start when designing the configuration of the frac sand plants.
Rapat is able to provide its clients with customized conveyor systems that adapt to their specific needs. The company’s sand clients are located throughout the United States and Canada, and its products can be used for a variety of applications.
“Our clients are located where the silica sand is,” explains Justin Koenig, Rapat’s industrial sales manager. “That could be mines mining the sand from the ground, plants conditioning the silica sand or plants at the drill site storing the sand.”
The conveyor belts at some facilities transport the materials from the mines onto rail cars, while others transfer the material from the rail cars to trucks and then to the plants for storage.
The company’s extensive experience in providing custom solutions enables Rapat to meet the tight deadlines required from this industry. “With our experience, we’ve been able to streamline the process so we’re able to provide engineered system in a reasonably short time,” Koenig says. “We are a one-stop shop and facilitate an expedited schedule for the client from the time they have the civil work done at the site to when they’re able to start using it.”
One of the most important factors contributing to Rapat’s ability to meet the tighter deadlines is its staff. “We have 15 engineers who undergo extensive training to meet the demands of quick schedules,” Koenig explains.
Technology at Work
Developing a system for a frac sand plant has to take into consideration the application and the product. “Sand is very abrasive and has high density, so it has some unique characteristics to take into account,” Sparrow explains.
When the company receives a requirement for a project, it has to factor in all the moving parts. “We have to take into consideration the materials, the rate of conveyance, the altitude of the conveyor, among other data,” Koenig explains. “We’ll input the data into software that will give us definitions for the belt width, what the requirements should be for the walkways, etc.”
The company can create a 3-D model to ensure that every piece fits appropriately in the space that has been allowed for the conveyor. “We can run a dynamic analysis model of the chute to project the trajectory of the material and the velocity of that material through the chute,” Koenig says.
Rapat’s engineers then take that information and decide what the best abrasive resistant lining for the area would be. “We’ll decide on the lining based on how the material flows, at what angle and how much wear we anticipate in certain areas,” Koenig explains. “Then, we control the velocity or reduce the velocity onto the next conveyor or onto the next area where it’s feeding.”
The use of that technology has enabled Rapat to provide the structure, support and transfer points to reduce wear in the equipment.
As a result of this technology, “we’ve been able to give the customer a lot of value, reduce the time it takes for these plants to be built and reduce the time it takes to get their product to the market,” Sparrow says.