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CONSOL Energy Announces Operations Update; Gas Division Sets Drilling Record With Rotary Steering Tool; Coal Exports Drive First Quarter Sales Above Guidance

PITTSBURGH, April 12, 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 March 31, 2013.

CONSOL's Coal Division produced 14.8 million tons for the first quarter of 2013, including 1.3 million tons of low-vol coking coal from the company's Buchanan Mine. Both figures exceeded guidance as production surged to meet stronger-than-expected export markets. Despite Buchanan's strong first quarter production, realized prices weakened as the quarter progressed.

During the first quarter of 2013, CONSOL's total coal inventory decreased by 414 thousand tons to 964 thousand tons as of March 31, 2013. This is the lowest total coal inventory levels in 15 years. Thermal coal inventory decreased to 875 thousand tons during the quarter. Low-vol Buchanan and Amonate inventory also decreased during the quarter by 153 thousand tons, to only 89 thousand tons.

"Our coal sales exceeded guidance in the first quarter for two reasons: First, domestic generators took all contracted volumes as they responded to cold weather," commented J. Brett Harvey, chairman and chief executive officer. "This was the reverse of what happened in the 2012 first quarter, when record warm temperatures caused domestic generators to push back or defer some 5-6 million tons. Additionally, the 2013 first quarter sales were helped by stronger-than-expected export markets. CONSOL's mines were able to respond effectively and efficiently to meet these incremental sales." 

CONSOL's Gas Division produced 39.2 Bcfe for the 2013 first quarter or 4% more than the 37.7 Bcfe produced in the 2012 first quarter. Consistent with previous quarter's guidance, first quarter 2013 production was down 6% compared to the fourth quarter of 2012, as a result of frac schedules and other seasonal factors that limited wells turned into line. During the quarter, CONSOL's Gas Division set a Baker Hughes U.S. land record by using their AutoTrak Curve Rotary Steerable tool to drill a Marcellus Shale lateral at 10,684 feet. This occurred in Central Pa. Gas Operations, on the Kuhns 3B well.  

Anticipated Infrequent or Unusual Transactions

Earnings results for the three months ended March 31, 2013 will include several adjustments which are unusual or infrequent in nature. These adjustments total $62.5 million and include the following items:

Pension settlement pre-tax expense adjustment of $27.1 million (non-cash): The adjustment is the result of accounting rules requiring acceleration of unrecognized actuarial losses when lump sum payments from a plan exceed the annual projected service and interest costs of the plan. In the first quarter 2013, lump sum pension payments exceeded the threshold which required settlement recognition. Many of these lump sums were paid to individuals who elected to retire under the 2012 Voluntary Severance Incentive Program. 

CNX Gas shareholders litigation settlement pre-tax expense adjustment of $20.2 million: The adjustment is the result of an agreement in principle for resolution of the class actions brought by shareholders of CNX Gas challenging the tender offer by CONSOL Energy to acquire all the shares of CNX Gas common stock that CONSOL Energy did not already own for $38.25 per share in May 2010. The total settlement provides for a payment to the plaintiffs of $42.73 million, of which the company expects to pay $20.2 million. This settlement is subject to court approval and to the execution of final agreements with the parties.     

Blacksville No. 2 Mine fire pre-tax expense impact of $15.2 million: On March 12, 2013, smoke was detected exiting the Orndoff shaft at CONSOL Energy's Blacksville No. 2 Mine near Wayne in Greene County, PA. All day shift underground employees were safely evacuated and none sustained injuries. The location of the fire was identified and containment and extinguishment procedures were developed. The fire has since been extinguished as of March 24, 2013. It is unknown when mine operations will resume. The pre-tax expense impact reflects the expenses incurred to extinguish the fire. Insurance recovery is uncertain at this time and the impact of any potential recovery has not been reflected in the three months ended March 31, 2013.

Second Quarter 2013 Forecasts

Coal: CONSOL Energy expects second quarter 2013 total coal production to be between 13.25 – 13.75 million tons. Annual 2013 total coal production guidance is 55.5 – 57.5 million tons. Buchanan Mine's second quarter production is expected to be between 0.9 – 1.0 million tons, while annual production guidance is now estimated at 4.0 – 4.2 million tons.

Gas: CONSOL Energy expects its 2013 gas production to be approximately 170 – 180 Bcfe (net to CONSOL). Second quarter 2013 gas production, net to CONSOL, is expected to be approximately 38 – 40 Bcfe, or relatively flat compared with the 39.2 Bcfe produced in the first quarter of 2013. Based on our drilling and completion schedule, we expect our production to be more back-end weighted for this year.     

Coal Division Operations

CONSOL's Coal Division completed seven longwall moves in the first quarter of 2013 without a safety exception. In the area of compliance, CONSOL saw violations decrease by over 5% compared to the year-earlier quarter.

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