After months of prep, Consol Energy begins fracking first wells at airport

pittsburgh-international-airportPower Source

By Daniel Moore

A dense cluster of pipes, pumps, silos and engines hummed harmoniously across a rugged field on a wet morning earlier this month.

“This is about as much excitement as you see on a fracking site,” said Steve Snyder, completions manager for Consol Energy Inc.

Mr. Snyder was referring to Pad 2, the first of six total drilling sites to be developed by the Canonsburg energy company on property owned by the Pittsburgh International Airport. With the help of Halliburton, Consol began drilling the top vertical portions of six wells on the pad in August, then drilled the horizontal portions in December with an electric rig. The company began fracking April 1.

Hydraulic fracturing, company officials explained, is rather simple on the surface: Water mixed with sand and chemicals is pumped into the ground to break sections of shale rock and release previously trapped natural gas. It’s the sheer scale of the operations — especially those underground — that can be difficult to fathom.

Workers had dug an impoundment the size of a football field to contain 13 million gallons of fresh water, which is piped to the site and stored in an above-ground tank. Sand is trucked in and deposited in towering silos. Two giant, automated blenders mix the water and sand at a precise ratio — more water than sand at first, then more sand than water — that usually averages out at about half-sand, half-water for each well.

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