[Editor's note: A version of this story appears in the August 2018 edition of Oil and Gas Investor. Subscribe to the magazine here.]

The giant Kermit Sand Dune in West Texas, northwest of Odessa, is an aeolian sand deposit dating back eons. It is the northernmost dune of a 200-mile-long sand deposit laid down by millennia of winds blowing sediment from the Pecos River to the west. The sandy terrain in the Texas desert had for years been used as a dune buggy park and recreational area. It wasn’t until 2016 that the dune and the trend of sand deposits southward became the epicenter of the Permian Basin’s oil and gas industry.

Even with the oil price downturn dampening local drilling activity that year, in 2016 operators were still increasing the amount of sand they were pumping downhole in completions, and by a lot. The demand for sand had jumped by a factor of three over recent years, and the price of Midwest supplies—the most common source of frack sand—was costly and took weeks or months to be delivered by rail. Some regional operators turned to regional Texas sands, such as from Brady or Kosse, Texas, to mitigate costs, but others considered those lesser in quality for completions.

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