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Consol 1Q coal production better than expected

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Consol Energy Inc. said Friday that its first-quarter coal production was better than expected partly because of strong export demand.

Production was also helped by the more-frequent use of generators as the weather was colder than in last year's first quarter.

The coal and natural gas company said that its coal unit produced 14.8 million tons in the first quarter, which ended on March 31. This included 1.3 million tons of low-vol coking coal from its Buchanan mine in Virginia. Consol Energy's guidance was for 13.7 million to 14.1 million tons.

Total coal inventory declined to 964,000 tons — the lowest total coal inventory level in 15 years. Thermal coal inventory, low-vol Buchanan and amonate inventory levels also fell.

For the gas division, production climbed 4 percent in the quarter to 39.2 billions of cubic feet equivalent (Bcfe).

Consol Energy Inc. anticipates second-quarter total coal production between 13.25 million and 13.75 million tons. Gas production is expected to be about 170 Bcfe to 180 Bcfe.

The company expects $62.5 million in adjustments during the first quarter for items including a pension settlement expense, a litigation settlement expense and expenses related to a mine fire.

Still, Michael Dudas of Sterne, Agee & Leach said in a client note that Consol Energy's first-quarter earnings per share could come in much higher than his 10 cents per share estimate, given its operating performance during the period.

Analysts polled by FactSet are expecting adjusted earnings of 20 cents per share.

The company will report its first-quarter financial results on April 25.

Shares of Consol Energy declined 72 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $33.15 in afternoon trading. The stock has traded in a 52-week range of $26.41 to $37.39. For the year to date, the shares are up 5.5 percent.