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Aerial view of the Pittsburgh International Airport (Image via WikiMedia Commons)

Consol Energy rolls out equipment to cut emissions at its airport drilling operations

As Consol Energy drills beneath Pittsburgh International Airport, it’s now using new high-horsepower engines designed to significantly cut air pollution emitted by its hydraulic fracturing fleet — and it has become the first natural gas producer to deploy them, the company said Wednesday.

The diesel engines for the fracturing pumps, meant to cut air pollution by 36 percent overall, are the result of a collaboration among Houston oilfield services company Halliburton and Cummins Inc., a manufacturer of engines and fuel systems. They are designed to meet more stringent regulations set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“We’ve pushed the envelope today,” said Tim Dugan, chief operations officer of exploration and production for Consol, at a press conference Wednesday.

Mr. Dugan called its operations on 9,000 acres at Pittsburgh International Airport a “flagship project” where the company can display “how we conduct ourselves every day.” Drilling operations have been underway for the last eight months. Consol will use the new equipment on a six-well pad that will target the Marcellus Shale.

The engines are compliant with the EPA’s Tier 4F emissions standard for nonroad, high-horsepower engines — meaning industrial equipment operated off highways.

Compared to engines produced in 2000, the low-sulfur engines are expected to cut particulate matter by 93 percent and oxides of nitrogen and hydrocarbon by 63 percent, according to Consol.

Tony Angelle, area vice president of northeast for Halliburton, said the oilfield service company invested about $50 million for the project, which took more than a year to develop. At the site, 16 frack pumps are slated to operate with about 2,500 horsepower.

Related: Scientists launch study of emissions over fracking sites

The basic technology has been around for several years, said Sarah Sullivan, a spokeswoman for Cummins, in a telephone interview. It was developed for on-road engines — think big rig trucks — to comply with other EPA regulations, dubbed Tier 2. Those engines hit the road in 2006.

For the new round of regulations, the EPA’s so-called Tier 4F final rules call for an 80 percent reduction in particulate matter and a 45 percent reduction in oxides of nitrogen for engines above 751 horsepower, effective Jan. 1, 2015.

One big challenge was taking a technology that worked on a relatively smaller scale — a big rig with an average 15-liter engine — and apply it to a fracking pump that has an average 50-liter engine and uses 2,250 horsepower.

“Tier 4F is a significant milestone,” Ms. Sullivan said. “When you think of those reductions, it’s not something you come up with overnight.”

In separate news, Consol Energy has filed an initial public offering for its coal spinoff.

CNX Coal Resources’ initial assets are expected to consist of a 20 percent undivided interest in, and operational control over, Consol’s Pennsylvania mining complex, which includes three underground mines — the Bailey Mine, Enlow Fork Mine and the Harvey mine in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The number of common units to be offered and the price range have not been determined, Consol said in an announcement Wednesday morning.

A registration statement filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission shows the proposed maximum offering is $250 million for the so-called master limited partnership, or MLP.

MLPs are publicly traded companies that have a general partner that runs the business. The partnership is not subject to income tax and passes earnings directly on to shareholders and to the general partner.

CNX Coal Resources’ offering is expected to be completed in mid-2015. The new MLP plans to apply to list the common units on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “CNXC.”


This article was written by Stephanie Ritenbaugh from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.