Consol Energy plans to start drilling 47 Marcellus Shale wells on the Pittsburgh International Airport property by July, according to the agreement with the Allegheny County Airport Authority.
"This project represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to generate significant economic benefits for the residents of Allegheny County, and we take our responsibility to get it right very seriously," said Consol President Nicholas J. DeIuliis. "We intend to make it a flagship for the region that everyone can be proud of."
Best known in the Upper Ohio Valley for its Shoemaker and McElroy coal mining operations in Marshall County, Consol's gas drilling business is overseen by its subsidiary, CNX Gas Corp. CNX has active gas drilling operations in Marshall and Wetzel counties, according to West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection records.
Consol Energy plans to drill 47 Marcellus Shale natural gas wells on six different well pads on Pittsburgh International Airport property.
Already drilling in the Marcellus and Utica shales, Consol also recently hit the Upper Devonian formation at 12,490 feet deep in southwestern Pennsylvania. Tim Carr, Marshall Miller professor of energy at West Virginia University, said the Upper Devonian is a mix of sandstone and other forms of rock. It lies just above the Marcellus Shale, which underlies much of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The Utica Shale is a much older formation that lies deeper within the earth compared to the Marcellus and Upper Devonian, he said.
Although Consol's drilling plans for the airport focus on the Marcellus, officials confirm they will also be looking for Upper Devonian opportunities. The company plans seismic testing to begin in late October to determine the most profitable drilling locations.
"The expected revenues will allow us to lower costs at the airport and attract additional flights," said Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County chief executive. "It ensures that our taxpayers do not have to pick up additional costs at the airport ..."
The project calls for Consol to form six drilling pads with three centralized water pits. The company hopes to begin construction early next year in preparation for the July drilling. Consol will use roughly 17 miles of gas lines and 12 miles of waterlines to deliver gas to market, while sending water to the drilling pads for fracking operations. Consol plans to run two rigs during the drilling project through 2018.
DeIuliis said Consol believes its drilling plan will allow the company to "safely and compliantly access the natural gas located at the airport property while minimizing our environmental and operational impacts."
"Our abundant reserves of safe, reliable natural gas are bringing thousands of jobs to the region and much-needed revenue into Pittsburgh International Airport so it once again serves as an economic catalyst for southwestern Pennsylvania," said Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa.
Consol does not plan to construct new public roads on airport property, as the company believes it can rely on existing roads without any disruption to daily airport traffic.
The Federal Aviation Administration is reviewing an environmental assessment that Consol and the airport authority submitted.
"As part of the environmental assessment process, public comments and questions are being accepted at FlyPittsburgh.com and will be included in the FAA proposal," said David Minnotte, chairman of the airport authority.