A Look at Proppant Loads: Trends You Need to Know

Our initial analysis of well completion data from the FracFocus database gives us some insights into well completion trends over the past couple of years. 

Sand overall accounts for the bulk of proppant use hovering at 85-95% of total proppant by weight by our analysis. Together ceramic and resin coated sand proppants make up the remainder. 

While market share by total weight for both ceramic and resin proppant have fallen, ceramic has seen the largest drop, falling from 13% in 3Q13 to 3% by mid-2015. From its peak in 1Q14 resin share declined from 7% to 2%. Interestingly share for ceramic proppant began to decline before commodity prices cracked in mid 2014 suggesting that producers were already beginning to reevaluate the cost/benefit of the more expensive proppant. 

Figure 1: Ceramic use peaked in 2H 2013 (share of total proppant mass).

Source: FracFocus, DISCERN

The share by wellcount shows more stability for ceramic proppant (Figure 2) while pounds per well for ceramic proppant was responsible for much of the share loss from the peak in 3Q13 (Figure 3). So the runup in late 2013 was a combination of a steady proportion of wells using ceramic proppant, but with more ceramic proppant in those wells on average. The data then shows that trend partially reverse in 2014. Resin coated sand proppant lost wellcount share (Figure 2) and pounds used per well (Figure 3) starting in early 2014. In contrast, sand use has risen dramatically over the last couple of years echoing themes that operators have continued to more aggressively complete wells (Figure 4). 

So the shift towards higher sand loads while reducing the amount of other proppants is an example where quantity appears to beat quality.

Figure 2: But the proportion of wells using ceramic proppant was fairly steady in 2013-2014.        

Source: FracFocus, DISCERN

Figure 3: While the amount of ceramic proppant per well peaked in 3Q2013.    

Source: FracFocus, DISCERN

Figure 4: The amount of sand proppant per well continues to rise as operators use more aggressive completions.

Source: FracFocus, DISCERN

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