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Frackers Scrap Idled Equipment Amid Shale Drilling Pullback

  • Patterson-UTI, RPC leading industry in retiring equipment
  • North American exploration spending seen falling at least 10%
A sand-hauling truck sits in a Cudd Energy lot in Odessa, Texas.
A sand-hauling truck sits in a Cudd Energy lot in Odessa, Texas.
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The downturn in shale drilling has been so steep and brisk that oilfield companies are taking the unprecedented step of scrapping entire fleets of fracking gear.

With almost half of U.S. fracking firepower expected to be sitting idle within weeks, shale specialists including Patterson-UTI Energy Inc. and RPC Inc. are retiring truck-mounted pumping units and other equipment used to shatter oil-soaked shale rock. Whereas in previous market slumps, frackers parked unused equipment to await a revival in demand, this time it’s different: Gear is being stripped down for parts or sold for scrap.