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Fracking Will Help Pull Pittsburgh International Airport Out of Debt

August 13, 2014 By Karen Henry

PittsburghInternational-energy-manageConsol Energy is poised to drill its first natural gas well just outside the fence at Pittsburgh International Airport this month, The New York Times reports. The well will tap a trove of natural gas underneath the airport’s runways and terminals that could power the state of Pennsylvania for a year and a half.

Officials have known for some time that the airport sits on top of land that is ideal for hydraulic fracturing, but it didn’t seriously consider extracting the gas until airline traffic took a serious hit. Traffic at the airport has been declining steadily since airline consolidation caused US Airways to begin phasing out its hub in 2004. The airport was built to accommodate 30 million passengers a year, according to The New York Times article, but last year only eight million passengers passed through.

Once the royalties kick in, the natural gas deposits will fetch the airport about $20 million a year—more than 20 percent of its operating budget. The revenue will come as a saving grace for an airport that is deep in debt.

Dallas-Fort Worth and Denver International Airport also have oil and natural gas wells on their properties, but they generate only a fraction of the revenue the Pittsburgh extraction is expected to bring in. The 100 wells at Dallas-Fort Worth bring in about $8 million per year, and Denver International’s 76 wells generated $6.2 million in revenue in 2012.

Consol Energy’s drilling rig will bore six holes that are more than a mile deep, and a second rig will drill horizontal offshoots that will extent 8,000 feet or more. Consol describes the project as modest in size.

Photo of Pittsburgh International Airport via Shutterstock.

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