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New transloading facility in Columbiana

Published: Mon, March 18, 2013 @ 12:05 a.m.

Valley business rolls full steam ahead as loading hub for oil and gas drillers


A Mobile Track Rail Car Moover moves some of the dozen railroad cars with sand at the BTR Buckeye Transfer Realty - new transhipment facility in Columbiana is processing 2,000 tons-per-day of fracking sand for use at regional wells. In the last month, the facility has added 20 jobs just to handle the shipments it takes in from large freight trucks 41738 Esterly Drive, Columbiana.


Lisa R Wallace - COO of Buckeye Transfer Realty , holds one of the three types of fracking sands.

By Jamison Cocklin



Lee Stoneburner spends most of his days on a sprawling 100-acre expanse of what was once mostly corn fields.

He dedicates his attention to shuffling rail cars on 7,300 feet of track that wind their way around an industrial park that cropped up around what long ago was a refractory mill at the edge of the corn fields. Kiln bricks were manufactured there for the insides of blast furnaces.

Stoneburner, the general manager of Buckeye Transfer Realty, was just a landlord six months ago, overseeing BTR-owned property occupied by trucking companies, an aluminum extruder and one other business.

Today, Stoneburner, along with his 22 employees, and BTR are a fundamental link in the oil and gas supply chain. The industrial park, on Esterly Drive, off West Park Avenue in Columbiana, is close to state Route 11 and near the epicenter of the Utica Shale play.

About two years ago, Stoneburner, his father, Jerry, and Lisa R. Wallace, chief operating officer for the company, began to envision their 2,000 feet of railroad track and industrial property as a distribution center for the oil and gas industry. They decided to start with sand.

“We were already involved in the transportation industry. We started hauling sand at least one year ago,” Stoneburner recalled on Friday. “It clicked; we saw how much transportation was actually required. It’s not insignificant. If you’re looking for something of volume, sand is the high-volume part of the industry.”

Volume is what Stoneburner deals in these days.

BTR’s property is now home to the region’s newest transloading facility. Rail cars, brought in via Norfolk Southern’s main line that hold 100 tons of sand each, arrive at the facility three times a week.

Oil and gas service companies, preparing to frack wells throughout Northeast and Southeast Ohio, send trucks regularly to pick up that sand and transport it to well sites.

BTR welcomed its first sand-loaded Rail cars Jan. 4. Business has grown ever since. The facility is designed to move between 20,000 and 25,000 tons of sand each month.

Before the company moved into the transloading business, it was just Stoneburner, Wallace, Jerry and Pepper, Jerry’s dog, who appears to be a small terrier mix charged with watching the doors and following his owner faithfully.

In the past three weeks, BTR has hired 22 employees, with plans to bring on more.

“I think this is the best thing to hit this area in a long, long time,” Stoneburner said when asked what the oil and gas supply chain means for his business.

“It takes a lot of hard work to get involved with these companies,” Wallace said. “You have to be very responsive, but the benefits are here for everyone, I think, for years to come.”

Sand is an integral part of hydraulic f racturing. A typical well can require 2,500 tons of sand during the fracking phase. Sand, water and chemicals are pumped into shale rock to create fissures through which oil and gas float into pipe that takes it to the surface.

Sand, or proppant as it’s referred to, helps hold those fissures open so they do not close under pressure of the earth.

BTR’s sand is shipped from Illinois and Wisconsin in three forms; large mesh, fine mesh and resin coated — each with a different crush strength and shape, for use depending on the rock formation and geology of different wells.

Mobile transloading machines, with long tails, pull up to the rail cars and unlock hoppers. The sand falls from the railcar to a conveyor on the tail, which then brings it upward for unloading into a truck. The machines can load 250 tons per hour, or provide a typical load in about 10 minutes.

For now, Stoneburner and BTR are focused on learning the ins and outs of the business, but they eventually hope to use their acreage by expanding the facility or using it for other applications, such as a condensate gathering facility or a pipeyard for infrastructure being built throughout the area.

“This has truly been a labor of love,” Stoneburner said. “There’s a lot of money invested in this property, and we’d like to continue doing more with it.”


1glbtactivist(321 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

First we hear that thousands of gallons of poisons were dumped into the Mahoning River, upstream of drinking water for thousands of people. Then we hear a well next to our drinking water, Meander Reservoir, leaked the poisons. Then we see fracking waste trucks involved with crashes killing local citizens. Now we see that thousands of train car loads of sand are being used, causing good farmland to become useless quarry pits. What's next, earthquakes? This method of getting gas is a disaster. People owning these fracking companies need to be charged with serious crimes so they will not be so careless with our neighborhood.

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2DwightK(1537 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

How does the sand turn farmland into quarries?

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3Metz10987(145 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

You have to mine for the sand, most commonly using quarry mining. We don't have much sand around here but sand quarry are common near the lake Erie shoreline. There is farmland up there so in some cases it will be lost.

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4walter_sobchak(2713 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

My God! Now, mining for sand is harmful to us and destroys the environment! Most sand is mined as stone that is then crushed and sieved at large processing facilitites. Other things that are mined include limestone, iron ore, copper, bauxite and evil coal. These items are all used to better our world by making concrete, steel, aluminum, etc. But, if someone's land is being destroyed, they should call law enforcement and have them arrested for trespassing. Oh, and they should not cash their royalty checks either. What a total load of crap!

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5DSquared(1788 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

If MAObama and his band of merry men would allow drilling in ANWAR, fracking would probably go away.

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6DwightK(1537 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Guys, the sand vs farmland thing is pretty weak. Don't argue that point. Looks like you're reaching.

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7Metz10987(145 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Maybe but guess you also think breathing in slica sand is great for your lungs too.

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8Fracman(2 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Gee, is this the same silica sand that is used in sand traps, water filters, pool filters, sand boxes, industrial castings and glass manufacturing?

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976Ytown(1364 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

OSHA's concerns regarding silica sand.

"9% of all samples showed silica exposures 10 or more times the PEL, with one sample more than 25 times the PEL.
31% of all samples showed silica exposures 10 or more times the REL, with one sample more than 100 times the REL.

"Hydraulic fracturing sand contains up to 99% silica. Breathing silica can cause silicosis. Silicosis is a lung disease where lung tissue around trapped silica particles reacts, causing inflammation and scarring and reducing the lungs' ability to take in oxygen.ii Workers who breathe silica day after day are at greater risk of developing silicosis. Silica can also cause lung cancer and has been linked to other diseases, such as tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney and autoimmune disease."


"In air samples taken at a drill site in the Eagle Ford Shale late last summer, investigators found silica dust levels exceeding government safety standards in half of the eight samples taken. In one sample, silica levels were over 10 times the safe limit which meant that even if workers wore air-purifying half-masks, they still would be in danger according to NIOSH. Similar and sometimes worse levels were found at sites in other fracking hotspots in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Arkansas. In fact, NIOSH says silica dust levels exceeded government safety standards at every fracking site they tested.

Breathing silica dust can cause silicosis, an incurable lung disease, and increases the risk of lung cancer.


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10ytownsteelman(680 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

76Ytown, if you are that afraid of sand then don't go to the beach!

BTW did you know that freezing to death from not having gas to heat your house is also a health risk?

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1176Ytown(1364 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

steelman: Funny you should mention the beach. I love the beach! In fact I just got back from a 10 day stay in SO CA. Watched dolphins and CA sea lions frolicking in the ocean. Did a lot of walking and sat in the sand on the beach and enjoyed the sound of the ocean waves. Only complaint was that it was foggy except for the last day. A few blocks inland was sunny and hot. Did enjoy the gas heat from the furnace at night.

Something to ponder:

"We do the best we can with what we know, and when we know better, we do better" - Maya Angelou.

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1276Ytown(1364 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

UticaShale: Thank you for harvesting energy for all consumers, but I wouldn't exactly call fracking state-of-the-art. It sucks that it's so barbaric.

We are all responsible for coming up with solutions to our energy use. To start, if we compare fracking our land as a way to produce 50% more energy to consume, we can also say that cutting back on consumption by 25 - 50% is a comparable end result without added consequences to our health and environment. Technology is out there, but if it means less money in the pocket of big auto, gas and electric companies sadly they are not willing to change. Consumers can carpool, insulate, unplug and recycle to do their part but sadly, they also are unwilling to change.

Researchers have discovered a new process that takes the energy from coal without burning it -- and removes virtually all of the pollution.

The clean coal technique was developed by scientists at The Ohio State University, with just $5 million in funding from the federal government, and took 15 years to achieve.


Knowing the risks involved in fracking, do you really think it is still worth it? Bottom line, will the money you make today be worth the loss of your health later?

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13walter_sobchak(2713 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

You miss the point. People are complaining that farmland is being destroyed by mining for sand. The vast majority of sand is manufactured by crushing stone. This would be a hazard no matter what the final use of the sand. As for problems at a fracking site, this can esily be minimized with some dust control since the sand is mixed with water and injected far into the ground, making airborne dust vitually impossible. You raise a good question about working for a paycheck today with possible health consequences later. I was always told the smell of sulphur and the soot in the air meant money in the pocket.

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1476Ytown(1364 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Ok, so we'll circle back to the article about what used to be 100 acres of farmland is now dedicated to the transloading business.

glbtactivist says "causing good farmland to become useless quarry pits". Since glbtactivist did not respond to attempts by the above posters to poke fun at this comment, I will site the following articles that refer to farmland concerns:




“Farmers’ livelihoods depend upon the integrity of the soil, clean water and pollution-free air. Because of their reliance on the land, farmers are among those most at risk to suffer from the negative impacts of fracking."


Walter: So you're an undertaker by trade?

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15RTS1416(117 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

I don't understand why people want to copy and paste obscure articles and post them seemingly without reading the contents. Two of the above articles have nothing to do with sand mining, one is a commentary by a single individual and the third is based on arguments occurring between land owners who have sand deposits and those who do not. The same article states how land is returned to the state it was found, native grasses and pine trees replanted as the land owner prefers, not left a useless quarry pit.

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1676Ytown(1364 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

RTS: "Two of the above articles have nothing to do with sand mining, one is a commentary by a single individual and the third is based on arguments occurring between land owners who have sand deposits and those who do not."

You may want to re-read the threads in order. In rebuttal to Walter's comment, I wrote. "Ok, so we'll circle back to the article about what used to be 100 acres of farmland is now dedicated to the transloading business."

All sources cited are reputable sources.

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