Frac sand mining operations suffer in oil and gas crisis

The nation’s wrecked oil and gas industry has left another frac sand plant closed and its 55 workers losing their jobs, something that has happened to Oklahoma’s frac mining operations.

The latest closure was in Wisconsin where Smart Sand Inc. laid off the dozens of workers and blamed the combination of COVID-19 and the oil price war started by Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Smart Sand Inc. informed the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development that it’s laying off 55 workers at a plant near Oakdale effective May 1 according to The Tomah Journal. The letter stated that Smart Sand is “hopeful that we will be able to recall these employees at a future date, but we cannot be certain that will occur.”

Another sand producer has laid off workers at two Wisconsin plants but has yet to shed employees at its facility near Wyeville.

A spokesman for Hi-Crush Inc. said Thursday the Wyeville plant is “operating at somewhat reduced capacity” but no “operations personnel” had lost their jobs.

The plant informed DWD that it’s permanently laying off 35 workers at Whitehall and 32 in Taylor.

“The layoff is in response to unforeseen business circumstances related to the acute and precipitous downturn in oil and gas prices driven by the Saudi/Russia oil price war and the related impacts of COVID-19 on the demand for the company’s sand product,” Hi-Crush said in a letter to DWD.

Crude oil listed at $17.40 per barrel Thursday after starting the year at $61.18, and gas prices at the pump are at their lowest levels in two decades. In Tomah, gas fell to a low of $1.17 per gallon last week before bumping up to $1.29 Tuesday.

Sand from Wisconsin is used to fracture shale rock that contains oil and natural gas deposits.

Source: The Tomah Journal