Map courtesy of the Arizona Geological Survey
This map shows the location of the upper fluvial member (marked in yellow) of the Bidahochi Formation that contains the nearly pure quartz sands ideal for fracking.
By Linda Kor
Northeastern Arizona is once again being spotlighted for its vast natural resources. According to a recent report provided by the Arizona Geological Survey, the sands in the Bidahochi Formation near Sanders is considered ideal for hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.”
The nearly pure quartz in the region, located just over 50 miles north of Holbrook, has been used for traditional fracking since the 1960s, but in the past 10 years fracking has become increasingly important for shale oil and gas production.
While there are other sand deposits present in the country used for fracking, they are not as well suited due to the other components found in the sand. This most recent report shows the ideal nature of the sands found near Sanders.
“Some of this information has been around for a long time, but this is the first time we’ve have a concise report of what the Bidahochie Formation entails,” noted Mike Conway of the Geologic Extension Service of the Arizona Geological Survey.
“The sands are remarkable, really ideal and widely disbursed. Much of it falls on the Navajo Reservation, but a portion not on the reservation is already being mined by one company,” he explained.
The company Conway referred to is Preferred Sands, which has been mining on the Bidahochi Formation for the past four years and has expanded its operations over that time. Conway said what’s so attractive about the sands is not only its quality, but also its accessibility. “These are surface sands, so there’s no underlying layer to reach and there’s also railroad nearby, making it easily transportable,” he noted.
The frack sand industry will be challenged to find sands that meet the American Petroleum Institute specifications in the coming years and the report projects that the sands in the Bidahochi Formation will be able to supply that demand for many years to come.