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CONSOL Energy Announces Operations Update

Gas Division Produces 41.8 Bcfe in Quarter, up 5% from Year - Earlier Quarter;

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- CONSOL Energy Inc. (NYSE: CNX), the leading diversified fuel producer in the Eastern U.S., is providing an operations update for the quarter ended December 31, 2012.

(Logo:  http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20120416/NE87957LOGO )

"CONSOL's mines and gas operations ran well during the quarter," commented J. Brett Harvey, chairman and chief executive officer. "Substantial improvements in safety have been realized during the year and new records have been set all across the company.  Yet in the fourth quarter, we suffered a tragic fatality.  For 2013, we are focusing our efforts on reducing the severity of incidents, while maintaining the pace of overall accident reduction we've achieved the past five years."

CONSOL's Coal Division produced 14.3 million tons for the fourth quarter of 2012, including 0.7 million tons of low-vol coking coal from the company's Buchanan Mine. This was lower than the 15.2 million tons, including 1.4 million tons from Buchanan, in the fourth quarter of 2011. Annual 2012 coal production was 56.0 million tons, including 3.5 million tons from Buchanan and 0.1 million tons from Amonate. Annual 2011 coal production was 62.0 million tons.

Most of the 2012 reduction in coal production was due to the company's efforts to control inventory. Several mines were idled during 2012, as the company continually sought to match production and sales.

During the fourth quarter of 2012, CONSOL's total coal inventory decreased by 0.3 million tons to 1.4 million tons as of December 31, 2012. Thermal coal inventory decreased to 1.1 million tons during the quarter, as sales exceeded production. Low-vol Buchanan and Amonate inventory decreased from September 30, 2012 by 0.2 million tons, to 0.2 million tons.

CONSOL Gas Division produced 41.8 Bcfe for the 2012 fourth quarter, or 5% more than the 39.7 Bcfe produced in the 2011 fourth quarter. Annual 2012 gas production was 156.3 Bcfe (net to CONSOL). During the quarter, CONSOL Energy completed its second well in Noble County, OH. This Utica Shale well, the NBL 16A, was completed with 16 stages and tested at 12.0 MMcfd and 768 barrels condensate per day.  This well is currently shut-in for further dissipation of frac fluids and the installation of a gas gathering system. The early results from this well, coupled with the results from the previously announced NBL 1A well, in addition to competitor data, gives the company confidence to begin transitioning its Utica Shale program in Noble County from an exploration mode to a development mode. CONSOL now plans to drill 11 wells in Noble County in 2013.

First Quarter 2013 Forecasts

Coal: CONSOL Energy expects first quarter 2013 total coal production to be between 13.7 – 14.1 million tons. Annual 2013 total coal production guidance is 55.5 − 57.5 million tons. Buchanan Mine's first quarter production is expected to be between 0.85 – 0.95 million tons, while annual production guidance is now estimated at 3.8 – 4.0 million tons.

Gas: CONSOL Energy expects its 2013 gas production to be approximately 170 – 180 Bcfe (net to CONSOL). First quarter 2013 gas production, net to CONSOL, is expected to be approximately 39 – 41 Bcf, or slightly lower than the 41.8 Bcfe produced in the fourth quarter of 2012, as frac schedules and other seasonal factors are expected to limit wells turned into line.

Coal Division Operations

For calendar 2012, CONSOL's Coal Division saw safety exceptions drop 11%, from 150 to 134. A similar improvement of 11% was seen in compliance citations.

In safety, the Miller Creek Complex achieved Absolute Zero for the third consecutive year. During the fourth quarter, many of the company's coal preparation plants − including Bailey, Shoemaker, Loveridge, and Ireland load-out facility − achieved Absolute Zero. Enlow Fork Mine also achieved a safety milestone by becoming the first longwall operation in the company's history to accumulate over one million man-hours without incurring a lost time incident. 

At Buchanan Mine, the first of two phases of the $24 million Horn Mountain Portal Project was completed. This portal is strategically located at the mouth of our future 5 North reserves.  In the meantime, it is one-and-a-half miles closer to the current mining "face," enabling miners to get to and from the work site much more quickly. Phase two involves converting a vent shaft to a supply hoist. Once this phase is completed in June, seven miles – each way − of supply haulage will be eliminated. This will help to better control costs at the mine.

At Loveridge Mine, a major sealing project was completed, which has increased safety and reduced risk by reducing the active footprint of the mine by approximately three square miles. As a result of this project, one bleeder fan was eliminated.

For calendar 2012, Shoemaker Mine set a new production record, at 5.3 million tons.

Gas Division Operations

For 2012, the Gas Division worked the entire year without having recorded a lost-time incident. The Gas Division was thus able to continue its streak – dating back to 1994 – of its employees working without a lost-time incident during the course of some 5 million hours. Gas Operations' commitment to environmental excellence was reflected in a 53% improvement in their compliance record, year-on-year. 

CONSOL Energy had a very successful 2012 Marcellus Shale drilling program where the Joint Venture with Noble Energy drilled 89 gross wells, with 64 drilled by CONSOL and 25 drilled by Noble Energy. The table below highlights the improvements from the CONSOL-Operated 2011 program to the 2012 program:

CONSOL-Operated

Wells,
 By Year

Wells Drilled

Wells Completed

Average Lateral Length (ft)

Total Number Stages

Average Number Stages/Well

Average 24-Hr Rate (MMcf/D)

Average 30-Day  Rate (MMcf/D)

Average  EUR/Well (Bcfe)

2011

78

57

3,853

684

12

5.1

3.5

5.2

2012

64

51

5,514

940

18

8.1

4.7

5.9

The total lateral feet drilled in 2012 by CONSOL was approximately 280,000, or roughly 60,000 (or 27%) greater than the 220,000 lateral feet drilled in 2011. Frac stages were also up an impressive 37% in 2012 over 2011. The company believes that these metrics are key drivers for enhancing well economics.

For the 2012 CONSOL-operated Marcellus Shale program, the following table provides a breakdown of results by district:

CONSOL District

2012 Wells Drilled

2012 Wells Completed

Average Lateral Length (ft)

Total Number Stages

Average Number Stages per Well

Average
 24-Hr Rate (MMcf/D)

Average 30-Day  Rate (MMcf/D)

Average  EUR/Well (Bcfe)

Southwest Pa.

45

24

5,006

327

14

7.4

4.6

6.4

Central Pa.

13

18

6,867

409

23

9.9

5.3

5.9

Northern W.Va.

6

9

6,394

204

23

5.6

3.5

4.6

CONSOL Marcellus

Total/Avg

64

51

5,514

940

18

8.1

4.7

5.9

Southwest Pa.: In Southwest Pa., CONSOL Energy currently has two horizontal rigs operating and plans 23 wells with an expected average drilled lateral length of 5,800 feet during 2013 for Greene and Washington counties.

Central Pa.: CONSOL Energy does not currently have any horizontal rigs drilling in Central Pa. but plans to drill 5 wells with an expected average drilled lateral length of 8,300 feet in 2013, all in the Mamont Field of Westmoreland County. 

Northern W.Va.: Within the Northern W.Va. district, the company completed 3 Barbour County wells, with EURs of 7.5 Bcf, and 6 Upshur County wells, with EURs of 3.2 Bcf. CONSOL Energy does not currently have any horizontal rigs drilling in Northern West Virginia but plans to drill 8 wells with an expected average lateral length of 8,200 feet during 2013, 6 in Philippi and single well pads at Audra and Century to test the productivity of our southern Barbour County and northern Upshur County leasehold between Philippi and Alton.

Marcellus Shale Wet Gas (Noble Energy operated): In the wet gas portion of the Marcellus Shale, Noble Energy drilled 25 wells and completed 20 wells during 2012.  Noble Energy began production in Marshall County, W.Va. on July 31, 2012 with the 5-well SHL 1 pad. Current production is greater than 39 MMcfd gas and 300 barrels condensate per day from these 20 wells.  Also turned into production at Marshall County during 2012 was the 8-well SHL 3 pad and the 7-well SHL 6 pad.  During 2012, Noble Energy sold approximately 2.8 Bcf of "residue" gas, 32,000 barrels condensate, and 145,000 barrels natural gas liquids.  Assuming $3.35 per Mcf for dry gas, the realized flowstream remains greater than $7 per Mcfe including the liquid hydrocarbon component without full ethane recovery. 

Noble Energy currently has three horizontal rigs drilling in Northern W. Va. and Southwest Pa. One rig is finishing the fifth well of eleven at the SHL 8 pad in Marshall County, W. Va., one rig is rigging up at the seven-well WFN1 pad in Washington County, Pa., and one rig is drilling at the six well NORM 1 pad in Gilmer County, W. Va. Noble Energy expects to add one additional horizontal rig in March, June, and July of 2013. The plan is to exit 2013 with six horizontal rigs while drilling 85 to 90 wells with an average length 6,365' in the Marcellus wet gas area in 2013.

Ohio Utica Shale (CONSOL-operated): In the Utica Shale Joint Venture with Hess Corporation, CONSOL Energy drilled its first 8 wells with drilled lateral lengths ranging between 2,785 and 7,568 feet and completed its first 4 wells in 2012.

Tuscarawas County: The TUSC 3A in the western portion of the county had a drilled lateral length of 5,020 feet and was completed with 17 stages. The company had previously announced a peak production rate of 400 barrels of oil per day and 386 Mcfd of gas from the TUSC 3A.  The TUSC 8A, with a drilled lateral length of 7,568 feet, was recently drilled as an offset to the TUSC 3A and completion by 24 stages is planned during the first quarter of 2013.

Noble County:  Two wells were drilled and completed in this county, the NBL 1A with a drilled lateral length of 4,394 feet and the NBL 16A with a drilled lateral length of 4,793 feet.  The NBL 1A was completed with 14 stages and tested 9.0 MMcfd gas and 10 barrels condensate per day while the NBL 16A was completed with 16 stages and tested 12.0 MMcfd and 768 barrels condensate per day.  Both of these wells are currently shut in for further dissipation of frac fluid and the installation of a gas gathering system.

Portage County: The PORT 2A was drilled to a lateral length of 4,690 feet and was completed with 16 stages.  Good shows of gas and oil were encountered during frac plug drill out operations. The well is currently shut-in for dissipation of frac fluid.

Mahoning County: Three wells were drilled in this county in 2012.  The MAH 2A was drilled with a drilled lateral length of 2,785 feet and completion of 9 stages is expected to begin during the first quarter of 2013.  Our first multi-well Utica pad was drilled at the MAH 7 pad where the MAH 7A was drilled to a drilled lateral length of 5,411 feet and the MAH 7C was drilled to a drilled lateral length of 5,290 feet.  Completion of both MAH 7 wells is planned for the second quarter of 2013.

CONSOL Energy currently has two horizontal drilling rigs operating in the Utica Shale and plans 11 wells during 2013, all in Noble County. Production from these wells in 2013 is estimated to be less than 5 Bcfe, due to infrastructure requirements.

Ohio Utica Shale (Hess-operated): Our joint venture partner, Hess Corporation, drilled 2 joint wells, while completing 1 joint well during 2012.  The Athens A 1H-24 in Harrison County was recently tested at 13.9 MMcfd and 1,056 barrels condensate per day and is currently shut in for further dissipation of frac fluid.  The Jeffco A 1H-6, also in Harrison County, is currently being drilled out following a 15-stage stimulation.  Hess currently has 1 horizontal rig drilling on their operated portion of our joint venture in eastern Ohio, drilling on the 1H-23 in Harrison County, and plans to drill 16 joint horizontal Utica Shale wells during 2013.

CONSOL Energy will report additional operational and financial results for the quarter ended December 31, 2012 at 7:00 a.m. ET on Thursday, January 31, followed by a conference call at 10:00 a.m. ET. The call can be accessed at the investor relations section of the company's web site, at www.consolenergy.com.

Cautionary Statements

Various statements in this release, including those that express a belief, expectation or intention, may be considered forward-looking statements (as defined in Section 21E of the Exchange Act) that involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from projected results. Accordingly, investors should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements as a prediction of actual results. The forward-looking statements may include projections and estimates concerning the timing and success of specific projects and our future production, revenues, income and capital spending. When we use the words "believe," "intend," "expect," "may," "should," "anticipate," "could," "estimate," "plan," "predict," "project," or their negatives, or other similar expressions, the statements which include those words are usually forward-looking statements. When we describe strategy that involves risks or uncertainties, we are making forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements in this press release, if any, speak only as of the date of this press release; we disclaim any obligation to update these statements. We have based these forward-looking statements on our current expectations and assumptions about future events. While our management considers these expectations and assumptions to be reasonable, they are inherently subject to significant business, economic, competitive, regulatory and other risks, contingencies and uncertainties, most of which are difficult to predict and many of which are beyond our control. These risks, contingencies and uncertainties relate to, among other matters, the following: deterioration in economic conditions in any of the industries in which our customers operate, or sustained uncertainty in financial markets cause conditions we cannot predict; an extended decline in prices we receive for our coal and gas affecting our operating results and cash flows; our customers extending existing contracts or entering into new long-term contracts for coal; our reliance on major customers; our inability to collect payments from customers if their creditworthiness declines; the disruption of rail, barge, gathering, processing and transportation facilities and other systems that deliver our coal and gas to market; a loss of our competitive position because of the competitive nature of the coal and gas industries, or a loss of our competitive position because of overcapacity in these industries impairing our profitability; coal users switching to other fuels in order to comply with various environmental standards related to coal combustion emissions; the impact of potential, as well as any adopted regulations relating to greenhouse gas emissions on the demand for coal and natural gas, as well as the impact of any adopted regulations on our coal mining operations due to the venting of coalbed methane which occurs during mining; foreign currency fluctuations could adversely affect the competitiveness of our coal abroad; the risks inherent in coal and gas operations being subject to unexpected disruptions, including geological conditions, equipment failure, timing of completion of significant construction or repair of equipment, fires, explosions, accidents and weather conditions which could impact financial results; our focus on new gas development projects and exploration for gas in areas where we have little or no proven gas reserves; decreases in the availability of, or increases in, the price of commodities and services used in our mining and gas operations, as well as our exposure under "take or pay" contracts we entered into with well service providers to obtain services of which if not used could impact our cost of production; obtaining and renewing governmental permits and approvals for our coal and gas operations; the effects of government regulation on the discharge into the water or air, and the disposal and clean-up of, hazardous substances and wastes generated during our coal and gas operations; the effects of stringent federal and state employee health and safety regulations, including the ability of regulators to shut down a mine or well; the potential for liabilities arising from environmental contamination or alleged environmental contamination in connection with our past or current coal and gas operations; the effects of mine closing, reclamation, gas well closing and certain other liabilities; uncertainties in estimating our economically recoverable coal and gas reserves; defects may exist in our chain of title and we may incur additional costs associated with perfecting title for coal or gas rights on some of our properties or failing to acquire these additional rights we may have to reduce our estimated reserves; the outcomes of various legal proceedings, which are more fully described in our reports filed under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934; the impacts of various asbestos litigation claims; increased exposure to employee related long-term liabilities; increased exposure to multi-employer pension plan liabilities; minimum funding requirements by the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (the Pension Act) coupled with the significant investment and plan asset losses suffered during the recent economic decline has exposed us to making additional required cash contributions to fund the pension benefit plans which we sponsor and the multi-employer pension benefit plans in which we participate; lump sum payments made to retiring salaried employees pursuant to our defined benefit pension plan exceeding total service and interest cost in a plan year; acquisitions and joint ventures that we recently have completed or entered into or may make in the future including the accuracy of our assessment of the acquired businesses and their risks, achieving any anticipated synergies, integrating the acquisitions and unanticipated changes that could affect assumptions we may have made and divestitures we anticipate may not occur or produce anticipated proceeds including joint venture partners paying anticipated carry obligations; the anti-takeover effects of our rights plan could prevent a change of control; increased exposure on our financial performance due to the degree we are leveraged; replacing our natural gas reserves, which if not replaced, will cause our gas reserves and gas production to decline; our ability to acquire water supplies needed for gas drilling, or our ability to dispose of water used or removed from strata in connection with our gas operations at a reasonable cost and within applicable environmental rules; our hedging activities may prevent us from benefiting from price increases and may expose us to other risks; changes in federal or state income tax laws, particularly in the area of percentage depletion and intangible drilling costs, could cause our financial position and profitability to deteriorate; and other factors discussed in the 2011 Form 10-K under "Risk Factors," as updated by any subsequent Form 10-Qs, which are on file at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

SOURCE CONSOL Energy Inc.

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