[Editor's note: The full version of this article originally appeared in the January issue of E&P Plus. Subscribe to the digital publication here.]

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. But as the industry looks back on the past year, it might be hard-pressed to come away with a clear vision of 2020. The oilfield services (OFS) sector, and in particular the hydraulic fracturing market, took the brunt of the blow, with many pressure pumpers seeing almost no work by late spring and early summer.

According to Westwood Energent, the number of frac crews operating in the Permian numbered 18 to 20. Even as pandemic restrictions began being lifted, and demand for oil started to marginally improve by the early fall, the OFS sector remained mostly stagnant as operators worked through their inventory of DUCs.

But as the calendar has flipped to a new year, the fracking industry is both taking stock of lessons learned from 2020 and pushing forward with innovations and technologies designed to optimize efficiencies for both operators and service providers. Meanwhile, as shale producers increasingly put more effort on achieving ESG goals, service providers are bringing to market systems and tools that cut down on emissions and generally reduce the carbon footprint of fracturing operations.

Although many industry insiders believe the shale industry will likely never again achieve its previous highs in drilling and completions activity, the heartbeat of the fracking industry gained strength toward year-end 2020, and while it might not be at full strength this year, it will continue to pump the lifeblood of the U.S. energy industry.

Click here to read the full cover story in the January issue of E&P Plus.