"Right now, we've got more demand for frack crews than there are frack crews. Everybody's trying to hire as fast as they can to meet demand. But the manpower isn't there yet."
Hundreds of workers have been hired in West Texas this year to meet demand for hydraulic fracturing services, but even the largest US fracking companies have had to look beyond Texas to replenish a workforce that was decimated by years of cheap oil prices.
Drilling has surged in the Permian Basin this year, but the shortage of workers for 50-person fracking crews has led oil companies to leave hundreds of wells untapped for months in West Texas. The number of dormant wells in the Permian Basin climbed from 1,310 in June 2016 to more than 2,400 currently.
Analysts blame a lack of available labour and fracking equipment in West Texas. "The labor pool has been completely plundered," said Bill Herbert, an analyst at Simmons & Company International in Houston.
"Growth expectations are being recalibrated." To lure workers from out of state, major players such as Halliburton are raising wages, offering housing allowances and providing temporary homes, known as man camps. CUDD Energy Services, a hydraulic fracturing firm in Midland, took several months to fully staff its fracking crews. "Right now, we've got more demand for frack crews than there are frack crews," Clint Walker, general manager at CUDD, told the Houston Chronicle.
"Everybody's trying to hire as fast as they can to meet demand. But the manpower isn't there yet." In December 2014, at the peak of the oil boom, the average wage for an oil industry worker in Texas was $1,276 a week, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.
That dropped to a low of $1,047 a week in March 2016, the month after crude prices reached a 12-year low at $26 a barrel. Last month, with prices around $50 a barrel, those wages had rebounded to $1,206 a week.