Shale Drillers Using Less Frac Sand as Prices Soar

Necessity is the mother of invention. Over the past year or so we’ve chronicled the dramatic increase in the amount of sand used in fracking. Recently we told you that Chesapeake Energy drilled what we believe to be the highest-producing Marcellus well (so far), with an initial production of 61 million cubic feet per day of gas (see Chesapeake 2Q17: “Rambo” Marcellus Well Produces Record 61 MMcf/d). Chessy’s “Rambo” well used 32 million pounds of frac sand. The trend has been to increase the use of frac sand. The more sand, the better the result. Except now that’s changing. Frac sand prices have been skyrocketing. Sand is some 12% of the cost of drilling and fracking a well. Shale drillers are beginning to innovate ways to achieve the same high yield results, but using less sand. What are they using instead? Some use “chemical diverters” to spread the sand slurry more evenly. Some reduce the distance between fractures–“tight spacing.” The point is shale drillers are doing what they have to do (innovating) to stay profitable and keep drilling. And if that means using less sand in fracking, so be it…

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