Drill Rig Modifications on CONSOL Energy CBM Gas Site Lead to Safety Improvements

Apr 10, 2013, 11:45 ET from CONSOL Energy Inc.

PITTSBURGH, April 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- CONSOL Energy Inc. (NYSE: CNX) unveiled modifications to a drill rig that enhance operator and employee safety and align with the company's core values of safety and continuous improvement during set-up of a rig on one of its drill sites in Buchanan County, Va., in late March.

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The modifications, which involve the use of hydraulic tongs for pipe handling, are designed to reduce reliance on the use of manual tongs and can be deployed on rigs used to drill for coalbed methane gas, as well as to rigs used across the gas industry in both conventional and unconventional operations.  The modifications allow for hands-off, safe zone operation of hydraulic power tongs to move and place drilling pipe. This technology was deployed through a joint agreement between CONSOL Energy and Noah Horn Well Drilling (NHWD), based in Vansant, Va.

"Safety is our top value at CONSOL Energy and it is a value that is shared by our contractors," said Randy Albert, chief operating officer of CONSOL Energy's gas division. "Continuous improvement drove our decision to look for a better way to handle drilling pipe as there have been a number of fatalities in the industry and accidents industry-wide involving the use of manual tongs. This modification to use power tongs reduces exposure to our employees and our contractors' employees working on the rig and consequently, it creates a safer work environment."

GEFCO, Inc., an Astec Industries Co., based in Enid, Okla., made the modifications to the rig and spent a week in Virginia in late March training CONSOL Energy's Virginia gas operations employees and NHWD employees on the operational provisions of the new rig equipment.

The decision to pursue the modifications came about after a meeting between CONSOL and NHWD to discuss safety issues surrounding the manual use of tongs in the drilling procedure.  The discussion led to a visit to the GEFCO factory to discuss options for modifications. GEFCO engineers got involved making the changes to the rig which ultimately resulted in the system unveiled last month.

"We incurred a serious accident in October 2011 that compelled us to try to figure out how we could jointly prevent these accidents from reoccurring and to learn what could we do to cut down on the use of manual tongs," said Leon Boyd, Noah Horn Well Drilling vice president of operations.

"Just like CONSOL, Noah Horn Well Drilling has safety as its top value in operations," Boyd said. "It's very important that our employees have the safety equipment they need to do the job as safely as possible. Replacing the manual tongs with the hydraulic tongs is a huge step forward in the safety and protection of employees working on drilling rigs everywhere.

"It is our company's chief responsibility to protect our most important resources and at Noah Horn Well Drilling, we maintain that our most important resource is our employees," Boyd added.

"GEFCO is dedicated to the continuous improvement of the performance and safe operation of the equipment we design and manufacture," said Aaron Harmon, GEFCO president. "We are extremely fortunate to have customers like Noah Horn, and industry partners like CONSOL Energy, that we are able to collaborate with to find safe and sensible solutions. It is this kind of collaboration that will improve the safety of our industry."

The new system, the M80G Power Tong, features a hydraulic breakout and makeup system with approximately 65,000 ft./lbs. torque make-up, an 80,000 ft./lbs. torque breakout and an opening to accommodate an eight-inch drill collar.

"Not only does this new technology make things safer, but it also cuts down on some of the back breaking work which occurred with manual tongs," Boyd said.

NHWD and CONSOL Energy agreed to jointly fund the Virginia rig modification unveiled last month and NHWD already has plans to make the modifications to two additional rigs it operates.

GEFCO representatives see the modification being a permanent option on future rig design and a retrofit option on current rigs. It took two to three months to work out the mechanics of the retrofit after the design was completed. GEFCO representatives said future retrofits will be completed in a two to three-week turnaround.

"We are fortunate to have conscientious contractors like Noah Horn Well Drilling and industry partners like GEFCO Inc., whose attention and commitment to safety and continuous improvement match ours," Albert said. "The modifications made to the rigs being used in our Virginia gas operations demonstrate that commitment."

About CONSOL Energy CONSOL Energy Inc. (NYSE: CNX) is a Pittsburgh-based producer of coal and natural gas. It has 12 bituminous coal mining complexes in four states and reports proven and probable coal reserves of 4.2 billion tons.  The company's premium Appalachian coals are sold worldwide to electricity generators and steelmakers. In natural gas, CONSOL Energy has transformed itself from a pure-play coalbed methane producer to a full-fledged exploration and production company. The company is a leading producer in the Marcellus Shale and is transitioning its active exploration program into development mode in the Utica Shale.  CONSOL Energy has proved natural gas reserves of 4.0 trillion cubic feet. Operational safety is the company's top core value and CONSOL Energy boasts a record of almost two times better than the industry average for underground bituminous coal mines.   CONSOL Energy is a member of the Standard & Poor's 500 Equity Index and the Fortune 500. Additional information about CONSOL Energy can be found at its Web site: www.consolenergy.com.