OIL & GAS: SILICA DUST CONTROL IN HYDRAULIC FRACTURING
Employee exposure to silica dust generation during hydraulic fracturing operations is a continuing concern for the oil and gas industry. Energy and production (E&P) companies face ongoing scrutiny of the impact of hydraulic fracturing operations on air quality. Service providers are being challenged to design, operate and optimize hydraulic fracturing systems to be safe and environmentally-friendly while maximizing production. Social concerns and regulatory standards for hydraulic fracturing have made safety and environmental stewardship a top priority.
One process that poses significant environmental, health and safety (EHS) challenges to the industry is the shipping and transfer of frac sand (proppant) which generates silica dust. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently revised the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica dust downward from 0.1 mg/m3 to 0.05 mg/m3. While the hydraulic fracturing industry has already applied measures to control silica dust, OSHA’s new regulations require further technological advancements in dust control, since existing mechanical and personal protective equipment (PPE) systems do not adequately reduce silica dust levels down to the new PEL across the hydraulic fracturing supply chain.