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Consol to use electric drilling equipment at Pittsburgh airport

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Consol Energy is going to use electric-powered equipment rather than the traditional diesel to power its drilling equipment during oil and gas development on Pittsburgh International Airport property.

The shift, announced during the final public workshop discussing the project, will significantly reduce emissions and noise during development, company officials said. This will be the first time Consol Energy has used electric to drill.

"Technology and innovation continue to define the shale opportunity and Consol continues to push the envelope to find new and better ways to unlock the potential of this once-in-a-generation opportunity," said Nicholas J. DeIuliis, president of Consol.

Consol and the Allegheny County Airport Authority say the environmental assessment for the project has been submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration for review.

The environmental assessment is required by the FAA to identify potential impacts and mitigation related to oil and gas drilling at Pittsburgh International Airport, includes public input on the project, which will be accepted through Dec. 31. Comments can be provided through flypittsburgh.com.

The proposed drilling plan outlines six well pad locations and three water impoundments on the airport property, with a total of 45 Marcellus wells as well as the potential down the road for drilling Upper Devonian wells should core testing deem it viable. The core testing is expected in 2014's third quarter, but the company says to maintain operational efficiency, minimize environmental impacts and maximize production potential, any development in the Upper Devonian formation would occur on the existing pad locations and utilize the same infrastructure.

In a release explaining the status of the project, Consol said construction of the well sites, impoundments and pipelines likely will begin in second quarter 2014. Drilling activity is expected to begin in July 2014 with two vertical rigs, they said, though once horizontal rig operations start they'll scale back the vertical rigs to one and both units would run for the duration of the project in 2018.

Roughly 17 miles of gas line – 11 on airport property – and 12 miles of water line will deliver gas to market and provide water for well completions. Consol  has no plans to construct new public roads on the site.

"The economic opportunity that this project brings to our region is unparalleled," said Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Chief Executive. "This is a huge public works project, totaling nearly $500 million, and will be putting many of our people to work. The expected revenues have already resulted in reducing the fees for airlines operating at PIT which will help in developing new air service. It ensures that our taxpayers do not have to pick up additional costs at the airport, and allows us to support infrastructure and other development near the airport easing the burden on taxpayer funds, which, ultimately, leads to additional jobs and growth for our region."

Seismic testing at Pittsburgh International Airport began in late October, Consol said.