Source Energy Services enlists Legacy Building Solutions to construct large frac sand facility.


WEMBLEY, Alberta – Source Energy Services (SES) is one of the fastest growing industrial sand suppliers in North America. The company’s Wisconsin mining and processing operation is among the largest production facilities for silica sand, producing over two million tons of proppant annually, which is delivered to storage terminals positioned near key shale plays.

Infrastructure in many areas hasn’t developed fast enough to keep pace with oil and gas activity. Production and support companies themselves have grown so fast that many have resorted to makeshift buildings for their operations. SES has been determined to avoid these pitfalls. Rather than only meeting immediate needs, the company strives to ensure their buildings will serve them for the long haul.

“The buildings we’re designing are world class caliber,” said Mike Miller, vice president of construction for SES. This was the mindset when developing the company’s new frac sand distribution facility in Wembley, Alberta.

The purpose was to provide large format sand storage. Upon completion, it became the largest facility for this purpose in the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin. The facility can receive several unit trains monthly, each usually carrying over 10,000 tons of material. Most transload distribution centers in the area provide about 2,000 tons for an oil or gas frac.

“We have a ‘tank farm’ utilizing 300-ton tanks about 25 kilometers away that was a transload storage facility for many suppliers,” said Miller. “However, as drillers have been facilitating larger fracs, silos or tank transloads don’t have capacity to fill those needs. The facility in Wembley is designed to be a reliable source of sand.”

In keeping with its philosophy, while considering the timeline to engineer and construct a building, SES focused its search on tension fabric building contractors. After reviewing and comparing specifications from different manufacturers, SES selected Legacy Building Solutions.

“We were very impressed by Legacy’s engineering team,” said Miller. “They are unique among fabric buildings in that they build on a solid steel frame. Everything looked good, from the eave and ridge ventilation system to the method for installing fabric panels. Combined with material delivery and construction times, Legacy was the perfect choice.”

One goal was to house all workers and operations inside the building, protected from gusting winds. This could have resulted in a massive structure exceeding the necessary scope, but SES and Legacy worked to establish appropriate heights and lengths, along with multiple lean-to areas.

The outcome was a building designed to allow full use of its storage volume – almost three million cubic feet. The main body of the fabric structure measures 140 by 480 feet, with three lean-to sections measuring 60 by 40, 60 by 80 and 24 by 200 feet, respectively – a total of 79,200 square feet. An offset peak and varying leg heights further characterize the fully customized building.

“We have a drive aisle that connects the building at its core and allows access to stock piles,” said Miller. “We utilize two of the lean-to spaces to load feed hoppers, and the other lean-to is a heated shop with lined walls and infrared heating units. We have 18- by 18-foot access doors for loaders and skid steers to enter.”

Legacy’s rigid frame design proved beneficial as SES implemented plans for an overhead conveyor to run the length of the building. After performing a structural analysis and determining load requirements, the structural design was easily modified to accommodate the conveyor system.

“Flexibility is key, especially for a ‘first of its kind’ building for this industry,” said Miller. “Legacy was able to adjust the design without any problem.”

According to Miller, SES always looks to design facilities that use natural sunlight, which made Legacy’s 15-ounce, fire-rated polyethylene roof – which allows abundant daylight to permeate the structure – a perfect solution.

“In northern Alberta in the summer the sun stays high for a long time, so we take full advantage of light,” said Miller. “We believe naturally lit areas are good for worker morale. And it saves on our facility operating cost.”

The facility opened on schedule in June 2014, despite a rough winter setting SES’s concrete contractor behind on foundation installation. “Legacy saved us over 30 days of downtime,” said Miller. “They stood the structural frames in a single day, and everything was completed within five weeks.”

SES is working toward other facilities, and Legacy figures to be involved. Said Miller, “In all respects, from design to pricing to production, Legacy is one of the best building contractors I’ve ever worked with.”

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