Fracking comes to Pittsburgh airport

Consol Energy Inc. will start drilling and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas at Pittsburgh International Airport this month.

Allegheny County officials who oversee the airport told The New York Times the fracking will bring in nearly half a billion dollars to the fledgling airport, to pay off debts it took on decades ago.

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The drilling will start outside the airport’s fence, but horizontal drilling will tap into shale reserves below the airport itself.

The drilling and resulting royalties to the county will put Pittsburgh’s airport in a unique position. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Denver International Airport both host fracking sites, but neither will rely on the revenue to the extent that Pittsburgh will, the Times reported.

The airport will receive about $20 million a year when drilling activity starts, a large portion of its less than $91 million budget.

The geology at Pittsburgh’s airport, in the Marcellus shale region, makes it especially well suited to gas drilling and fracking, the Times said. There are four layers of gas shale below it, all of which can be reached from a single well pad.

Gas from the airport is estimated to be able to serve all of Pennsylvania’s needs for a year and a half.

That’s good news to airport officials, who expanded infrastructure rapidly in the 1980s for a US Airways hub, the Times reported. Passenger traffic has since dwindled as the airline industry has consolidated.