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Hydraulic fracturing sand. Image courtesy of Bill Cunningham/ USGS.

As the shale boom drives North American upstream activity demand for sand used in hydraulic fracturing is expected to spike by 24 percent per year.

According to a report published by Houston-based PacWest Consulting Partners, “robust growth” in fracking sand demand is “driving dramatic growth” in the North American proppant market.

Proppant is a solid material, usually treated sand or ceramic, that is used to keep fractures made through hydraulic fracturing open.

Demand for proppant is expected to grow by 23 percent per year through 2016. PacWest said that growth will be primarily driven by demand for frac sand, a market that is expected to grow by 24 percent per year.

The report said that demand for RCS proppants, a type of proppant coated with resin, is expected to grow at nine percent per year while demand for ceramic proppants is expected to increase by two percent per year.

Demand for proppants is expected to slightly outpace supply causing moderate price increases.

PacWest said a continued shortage of transportation infrastructure will lead to “significant price increases at the well pad” but it expects logistical improvements by 2015.

“The remainder of 2014 could be challenging due to pressure on rail from a bumper agricultural harvest, low coal inventories, and increased crude by rail, chemicals and lumber shipments,” PacWest analyst Samir Nangia said.