The past decade has been an exhilarating ride for producers of frac sand, or silica sand used in hydraulic fracturing. North American shale oil and gas production has surged since 2010, bringing tremendous opportunities to the previously quiet silica sand industry. In 2014, the market for frac sand in North America was 20 times larger than it was a decade earlier, according to a recent study published by The Freedonia Group.
But for every boom, there is a bust. In late 2014, consumption began to decline as oil and gas prices plummeted across the world. Now, instead of embarking on ambitious expansions, frac sand suppliers have idled production and mining operations. The stock price of Fairmount Santrol, the US’s largest frac sand producer, dropped from $16.98 at the time of its IPO in 2014 to a low of $1.23 in January 2016.