Efficiency seen lifting US frac capacity

Operational efficiency is increasing overall capacity to hydraulically fracture wells in the US without a corresponding increase in equipment, report analysts at UBS Securities LLC.

The efficiency gains, say Angie Sedita, analyst, and associate analysts Sasha Sanwal and Paul Choi, come from faster frac crews, better frac design, engineering improvements, and growth in 24-hr operations.

The pressure-pumping industry began 2013 with 20-25% excess capacity while the well count was expected to increase 8-10%. But as much if not more pressure-pumping equipment is idle now as then.

Compared with less than a year ago, “the industry is able to do more with less,” the analysts say.

“It can complete twice as many frac stages as only 6-9 months ago, perform the job more quickly and efficiently, better design a frac job, and still manage to use even less and less horsepower than before,” they write in a Sept. 23 report.

They estimate efficiency gains such as those have increased “virtual” pressure-pumping capacity by 10-15% and expect the trend to continue.

While growth in the number of frac stages eventually will diminish, they add, improvements can continue in frac design, engineering capability, fracing efficiency, zipper fracs, pad drilling, crew speed, and technology.

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