New Gas Pipeline Would Feed Frac Sand Industry


WE Energies hopes to build a new natural gas pipeline between Tomah and the Eau Claire area partly because of new demand from the frac sand industry.

The utility estimates by 2015 demand for natural gas will outpace their system’s capacity in western Wisconsin.So, next year WE Energies will apply for a state permit to add a line parallel with I-94 between Eau Claire and Tomah.Spokesman Barry McNaulty says frac sand mining and processing facilities are adding to the demand but says they’re not the only factor.

“It certainly plays a role,” he says.”I don’t know that it plays as big of a role as people want to believe but it’s certainly one customer group that we will be serving if in fact they choose to actually utilize natural gas from our system.”

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This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

When frac sand is processed it’s washed to clean and sort the sand by size.It’s then, in effect, blow dried in natural gas fed furnaces.Most sand plants operate 24/7.

Xcel Energy spokesman Brian Elwood says they too are seeing increased demand for electricity and gas due to the frac sand mining boom.

“What we’ve seen is that a few years ago sand mining wasn’t a customer segment of ours and now they’re one of our biggest customer segments and at some point they will be our biggest customer segment,” he says.

But environmental groups like 350 Madison say the new gas pipeline and frac industry are short term solutions for energy causing long term problems for climate.

“And what the frac sand is about and what the tar sands is about are attempts to dramatically expand the base of fossil fuels at the same time we have to dramatically reduce them,” says spokesman Peter Anderson.

WE Energies says with a green light from the state construction on the new gas pipeline could begin by 2015.