Demand driving Shale Support

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Increased demand has caused Shale Support LLC to plan to expand production of proppants used in the hydraulic fracturing industry at its Picayune location.

Proppants, as in the case of the product produced at Shale Support, are typically comprised of sand that is as symmetrically round as possible so it can keep the cracks created in oil-housing rocks open, allowing the energy source to be extracted from the rock. 

Within Picayune’s Industrial Park, Shale Support takes the sand collected from surface mines in Hancock County, dries it and sorts it into sizes ranging from 20-40, 30-50 and 40-70, said company President Jeff Bartlam.

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Now the company is preparing to move forward with plans to expand its operation locally due to increased demand nationwide. The business now ships proppants to Oklahoma, South and West Texas and North Louisiana.

To ensure it can keep up with demand, Bartlam said his business recently purchased additional mines, one in Kinder, Louisiana and another in Baywood, Louisiana.

Through the use of a fleet of 2,000 rail cars, Shale Support can send orders of processed sand anywhere in the country. Bartlam said the limitation at this point is the lack of room at the plant to sort and stack the processed product.  That is why the company is building five more tracks to provide extra space to sort and split the product.

When construction begins to install those tracks, Bartlam said the company will hire local vendors to install the dirt needed to fill the wetlands where expansion will take place, generating a short-term boost in local employment. A separate contractor will be employed to install the ballast and rails for the tracks.

Long term, the expansion will mean the addition of four to five full-time employees who will be part of the load out crew. 

Total construction time to complete the expansion is expected to be between 90 to 120 days when it starts at an as yet undetermined date.

While the public notice from the Corps of Engineers concerning the expansion states that additional silos were part of the work, Bartlam said the silos won’t be installed as part of this phase. However, a second phase of the expansion is anticipated to take place in eight to 12 months, that will include the silos. When that phase takes place, Bartlam expects he will need to hire additional employees to operate the computer systems.

Bartlam said the company’s close proximity to ports along the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans presents opportunities for the company to export proppants to other countries, such as Argentina and Mexico.

Money has also been spent to refurbish the rail tracks leading into Stennis Space Center in the Nicholson area. Those tracks are being used to park company rail cars as needed.

Locally, the company employs 120 people directly, and another 50 to 60 contractors that includes truck drivers. Shale Support in Picayune is located at 105 Street A and can be reached at 601-798-7821.