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. (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20120416/NE87957LOGO) 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.