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Consol cuts natural gas budget again

| Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, 7:54 a.m.

Consol Energy Inc. again cut its budget for spending on natural gas exploration and production because of continued low prices, though it won't rule out drilling a few new wells in 2016.

The Cecil-based gas and coal producer on Wednesday announced a new capital budget plan and annual production estimates before a two-day financial conference in Miami. The budget of between $205 million and $325 million is less than the $400 million to $500 million it previously said it would spend, and well short of the $1.3 billion budget from 2014.

Most major Marcellus and Utica shale gas producers slashed spending during the past year. Natural gas prices recently hit 15-year lows because of a glut in supplies, inadequate pipelines to carry it to better markets and tepid demand. Consol last year halted its drilling program to focus on fracking and completing already-drilled wells.

The company said it still could increase gas production by 15 percent this year while spending less because it has become more efficient at bringing wells online. Wells tapping the Utica shale beneath the Marcellus are producing huge amounts of gas at lower costs, and Consol officials said they might drill some Utica wells from existing pads. The company recently got clearance to drill a Utica well from one of its Marcellus well pads at Pittsburgh International Airport.

Consol's largest shareholder, Memphis-based Southeastern Asset Management, raised its stake to 23 percent of shares from 21 percent, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Wednesday.

David Conti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5802 or dconti@tribweb.com.

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