Why America’s Oil Output Refuses to Collapse

Bloomberg | Dan Murtaugh and David Wethe

A greater use of frack sand is helping drillers boost output and survive low oil prices.

More and more sand is getting stuffed down wells to try to better pry open the rock and bolster output. Some of this is just a cost phenomenon. In the wake of crude’s selloff, the sand market collapsed too, driving down the price 30 percent and making it cheaper to shovel more grit in. The initiative, though, began years earlier, the result of engineers tinkering with inputs and discovering one of the many little technological breakthroughs that have helped the shale industry weather the downturn better than its legions of skeptics predicted. For proof of greater productivity, look no further than total U.S. output: It remains within 3 percent of a 40-year high even though drillers have idled more than half of their rigs. And a report Wednesday showed production actually rose 1 percent in July to 9.4 million barrels a day.

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