Frac pumping volumes lowest since 2017 as shale slowdown continues

By David Wethe on 9/11/2020

(Bloomberg) --Fracers are blasting less sand into shale wells for the first time in almost three years as oil explorers adjust to lower oil demand and prices amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Shale explorers are pumping an average of roughly 2.9 million pounds of sand a day during the current quarter, marking the first time since the final three months of 2017 that growth has subsided, according to Coras Research LLC. Sand per well is a key measurement of frac efficiency because more sand typically means more of the rock fissures that allow crude to flow.

“E&Ps are not getting the same bang for their frac buck this quarter,” Daniel Cruise, founder of Coras, wrote in a report on Thursday. If frac efficiency continues to decline, it “would put more pressure on U.S. shale production going forward.”

Fracers and other hired hands of the oil patch have been among the most beaten up during the historic crude crash as the global pandemic saps demand for oil-derived products. Global service giants Schlumberger and Halliburton Co. are turning their attention outside of North America, with expectations for international sales to make up more of their business going forward.

After the number of active U.S. frac crews bottomed out at 100 in mid-May, 40 crews have been put back to work, mostly in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico, according to Coras.

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