Consol Energy sees potential in Utica that others don't

Consol Energy Inc. held its annual shareholders meeting on Tuesday. It lasted for 10 minutes.

Shareholders of the Cecil-based energy company approved its nominated directors and auditors, agreed to an annual vote on executive compensation and approved the executive compensation packages put before them. They also voted against requiring the company to offer further disclosures of its political activities, such as lobbying.

After the meeting, CEO Nick DeIuliis said the company is optimistic about its ability to drive down the cost of producing natural gas from the Utica Shale, a formation deeper than the Marcellus that most other oil and gas companies believe cannot yet compete with the Marcellus economically.

Consol believes it can and that the Utica wells the company is drilling now will prove that, Mr. DeIuliis said.

He also said the time for selling its Bailey Mine Complex in southwestern Pennsylvania “is looking good right now.”

Although the company has not yet decided whether it will sell or spin off its last coal mine asset, Mr. DeIuliis said there are factors beyond the coal industry that could make this an attractive time to sell or split. He did not elaborate on what all of those factors are, but said one is that Consol is now a much bigger oil and gas player than it had been in the past.

Consol spokesman Brian Aiello later clarified that Mr. DeIuliis was talking about either a sale or a split, stressing again that the company hasn't yet decided on a path.

Art Tebo, an investor who said he owns about 10,000 shares of Consol’s stock, would prefer the company weren’t trying to get rid of coal.

“Things change,” he said, and fuel diversity should be prized.

Mr. Tebo drove in from Michigan to attend the brief meeting because he makes it a point to see companies he believes are somehow challenged.

“And this is a troubled one,” he said of Consol.

It’s not Consol’s fault, he quickly added. Its gas development program has been very successful, he said, but so have many of the other oil and gas companies that compete in the same space.

He referenced the natural gas glut and likened it to a farmer who has the best crops.

“But if everyone else has the best crops, too …” he said.

Anya Litvak: or 412-263-1455.

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