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Consol Budget Reflects Shift From Coal to Gas

January 28, 2013
By CASEY JUNKINS - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

BENWOOD - Despite the Shoemaker Mine producing a record 5.3 million tons of coal in 2012, Consol Energy officials plan to continue to shift the company's focus toward natural gas in 2013.

This year, Consol expects to invest as much as $935 million to further develop Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas assets in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. About $600 million of this will go to drilling in the Marcellus Shale, while $160 million will be used to maintain current production.

Consol anticipates that its joint venture with Noble Energy will drill 126 horizontal Marcellus Shale wells, including 90 wells in the liquids-rich area of the play. This wet gas is more lucrative than the methane-dominated dry gas found in most of Pennsylvania because it also contains valuable ethane, propane, butane and pentane.

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Consol Energy, a producer of both coal and natural gas, plans to spend about $935 million this year to develop Marcellus and Utica shale assets.

"Our net investment in 2013 reflects both our ability to invest in our organic growth opportunities in coal, gas, and liquids, while selling assets that have more value to others," said J. Brett Harvey, chairman and chief executive officer.

"In our coal division, once we complete the BMX Mine, we do not expect to be investing in new major coal growth projects," he added of the mine now under construction in western Pennsylvania.

Consol's natural gas producing subsidiary, CNX Gas Corp., now has active gas drilling operations in Marshall and Wetzel counties, according to West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection records.

Previously, Consol entered a $593 million deal for a 50-50 partnership with New York City-based Hess Corp. to develop Consol's Utica Shale acreage across eastern Ohio. Hess will operate in Belmont, Jefferson, Harrison and Guernsey counties, while Consol will drill in Portage, Tuscarawas, Mahoning and Noble counties.

In the Utica Shale joint venture with Hess, Consol drilled its first eight wells with drilled lateral lengths ranging between 2,785 and 7,568 feet. The company also fracked four of these wells.

In 2013, Consol will receive the final annual installment of $328 million from Noble Energy for the joint venture the companies signed in 2011.

In 2012, the joint venture saw Consol drill 64 wells with Noble drilling 25.

Noble began production in Marshall County on July 31 with five wells at the SHL 1 pad. Current production is greater than 39 million cubic feet of gas and 300 barrels of condensate per day from these 20 wells.

Also turned into production at Marshall County during 2012 were the eight-well SHL 3 pad and the seven-well SHL 6 pad. Noble now has one rig drilling in Marshall County, one in Washington County, Pa. and one in Gilmer County, W.Va.

As a result of the expected gas investment, Consol projects its total 2013 gas production to be between 170-180 billion cubic feet.

The company also projects to gather 250 million barrels of oil and 1.2 billion barrels of ethane, propane, butane and pentane.

If Consol reaches this level, the company will top its 2012 natural gas production total of 156.3 billion cubic feet.

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