Editors Note:

As the commodity cycle restarts there will be shortages of some materials. In the case of the energy industry, that shortage may be sand. One company is well ahead of everyone else in supplying this commodity.


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SLCA - U.S. Silica - Company Profile

U.S. Silica Holdings, Inc. produces and sells commercial silica in the United States. The company operates through two segments, Oil & Gas Proppants, and Industrial & Specialty Products. It offers whole grain commercial silica products to be used as fracturing sand in connection with oil and natural gas recovery; and resin coated proppants, as well as sells its whole grain silica products in various size distributions, grain shapes, and chemical purity levels for manufacturing glass products. The company also provides ground commercial silica products for use in plastics, rubber, polishes, cleansers, paints, glazes, textile fiberglass, and precision castings; and fine ground silica for use in premium paints, specialty coatings, sealants, silicone rubber, and epoxies. In addition, it offers other industrial mineral products, such as aplite, a mineral used to produce container glass and insulation fiberglass; and adsorbent made from a mixture of silica and magnesium for preparative and analytical chromatography applications. The company serves oil and gas recovery markets; and industrial end markets with customers involved in the production of glass, building products, foundry products, chemicals, and fillers and extenders. As of December 31, 2015, it had approximately 400 million tons of proven and probable recoverable mineral reserves. Company description from FinViz.com.

In the gold rush in the 1800's it was not the miners that got rich but it was the companies that sold them the picks, shovels and wheelbarrows. In the energy sector every shale well has to be fractured and that required mountains of sand. We are not talking regular beach sand. The primary frac sand is mined in Wisconsin and other northern states. There are various grades of sand depending on the geology of the well and what the drillers are trying to accomplish.

In 2014 it took an average of 4.2 million pounds of frac sand per well. However, in 2015 and 2016 there was a significant increase in fracking intensity that began to use much larger quantities per well. In late 2015 the amount of sand rose from 9% of the fracking fluid to 20%. In early 2016 Simmons & Co reported two wells in the Permian that used 60 million pounds of sand each while two in the Haynesville Basin used 35 million pounds each.

Houston based oilfield logistics company Twin Eagle reproted receiving "historic shipments" of frac sand at its facility outside the Eagle Ford. They reported receiving one 130-car train of sand a week. One car carries 100 tons so that is 13,000 tons per week. That is 26 million pounds of sand per week. If wells are now using 20 to 25 million pounds per well that is one train per well.

Last week the active rig count rose by 29 oil wells to 551 active oil wells. Each rig drills a minimum of two wells per month. If each well used 25 million pounds that would be more than 1,100 trains of sand per month.

There are rumors making the rounds that because of the increased intensity of sand in fracking there could be a sand shortage as the number of active rigs increase and producers began to rapidly complete the 3,000 or so wells that have been drilled over the last 18 months but never completed because of low oil prices. There is going to be a surge in the demand for sand.

U.S. Silica is one of the major sand suppliers with multiple facilities. They have used the downturn in the drilling industry to buy multiple competitors in order to bulk up for the future demand.

Earnings Feb 2nd.

SLCA has earnings on Feb 2nd but almost every company trading today has earnings over the next three weeks so that is just something we have to deal with. I am recommending we buy a longer-term option to get past any potential volatility around earnings. Their guidance should be good.

Buy June $65 call, currently $4.20, no stop loss until after earnings.


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