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Geology Professor Says Wisconsin Frac Sand Boom Over

Wisconsin’s frac-sand industry is grappling with several idled mines amid increased competition from rivals in Texas and Oklahoma.

Kent Syverson, a geology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, believes the region’s frac-sand development boom is over.

Parts of western and central Wisconsin saw heavy investment from 2011 to 2014, when sand mines, processing plants and rail-loading operations were being built at a rapid pace. Since then, Superior Silica Sands has idled three sand mines in Wisconsin, and Hi-Crush is halting production at its mine in Augusta.

Syverson told the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram that demand for sand remains strong, but energy companies have built mines closer to oilfields in Texas and Oklahoma. The production expansion has lowered prices and allowed oil drillers to purchase local sand for less than the cost of shipping it from Wisconsin, he said.