Hydraulic fracturing operations slowed considerably across the Lower 48 last year as the pandemic slammed the oilpatch, but proppant operators are seeing signs of a turnaround as their customers begin completing wells.

smart sand inc

The management teams of U.S. Silica Holdings Inc. and Smart Sand Inc. recently held their fourth quarter conference calls, acknowledging the struggles through most of 2020. However, in the final three months, business began to pick up, with momentum carrying into the first quarter.

During 4Q2020, U.S. Silica, one of the largest commercial sand and last-mile operators in the Lower 48, saw oil and gas proppant volumes increase 48% from 3Q2020. Loads also jumped 71% sequentially for the proppant storage, handling and well-site delivery unit SandBox...