Silica Sand Risks for CSG

Are we worried about the airborne risks around coal seam gas production? Health concerns from natural gas production being reported in the US should ring alarm bells here. A recent Huffington Post article raised the hazards of silica dust on anyone involved in the process of “fraccing” for natural gas hidden deep beneath the ground.

The process of hydraulic fracturing, or fraccing (it is called fracking in the US), requires blasting large volumes of water, chemicals and silica sand into bedrock. Up to 25% of the volume injected is sand and this is used per well to prop open the newly created fractures in the rock and release natural gas. The recent rapid expansion of natural gas production has saved Americans billions of dollars in energy costs, and recent investments in coal seam gas in Australia are also set to tap into this huge resource.

Water and sand comprise more than 99 per cent of the volume of fraccing fluid. Companies must identify the chemicals being used in any fraccing operation and detail any likely interactions with the water and rock formations in the area being fracced.

Silica sand or crystaline silica is a long-known cause of debilitating and deadly diseases such as silicosis and lung cancer. The risk is that at fracc sites, silica is getting into the air and being breathed in by workers.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, along with the NIOSH, released a joint hazard alert on fraccing silica in June. The document included recommendations, such as watering down dusty roads around a well site, but no new regulations for the natural gas industry. For a fact sheet on silica sand risks you can read this OSHA Alert

About the Author

Joanne Wallace is our resident "Safety Guru". Joanne has provided advice on safety management for the past 10 years and written hundreds of articles on safety issues and tips. Joanne has experience in many industries ranging from manufacturing, food processing, timber milling, retail, office and wholesaling providing her with knowledge and experience managing risk and injuries in these industries.

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