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Frac sand supplier U.S. Silica posts smaller-than-expected loss

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(Adds segment details, compares with estimates)

Feb 19 (Reuters) - Frac sand supplier U.S. Silica Holdings Inc reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss on Tuesday, helped by growth in its industrial and specialty products unit.

Sales in the industrial & specialty products segment more than doubled to $113.8 million in the fourth quarter.

The company has been investing in this unit as it records slowing growth in its oil and gas proppant segment, with oil producers hampered by tight pipeline capacity and lower crude prices holding back on completing wells.

The Maryland-based company said revenue from the oil and gas proppants business, its biggest, fell about 20 percent to $243.5 million.

Oil and gas sand proppant sales were also hurt by pricing pressure from a combination of low demand and additional local sand capacity coming on line in the Permian, Chief Executive Officer Bryan Shinn said in a statement.

The miner, which supplies sand to U.S. shale producers for use in fracking, posted a net loss of $256.1 million, or $3.44 per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with net income of $72 million, or 88 cents per share, a year earlier.

The company recorded $265.7 million in impairment costs in the latest quarter.

Excluding items, the company recorded a loss of 4 cents per share, smaller than analysts' estimates of a loss of 7 cents, according to data from Refinitiv.

Total sales fell 0.8 percent to $357.4 million. (Reporting by Shanti S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Maju Samuel)