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Consol Energy to invest more in gas than coal

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Consol Energy plans to concentrate more on its gas operations in the future and not invest as much in coal beyond maintaining existing projects. The company also anticipates selling off more assets this year.

Demand for coal has dropped partly because of low natural gas prices. In addition mild weather so far this winter has reduced U.S. demand for heating in homes and businesses.

Consol Energy said Monday that it expects annual coal investments to be around $5 to $6 per ton in 2014 and beyond. It considers those levels appropriate for maintaining existing projects.

The Pittsburgh company does not anticipate investing in any new coal growth projects once it completes its BMX mine, which is targeted for 2014's first quarter.

For 2013 Consol Energy expects to invest $410 million to $520 million in coal operations, with $318 million for maintenance of existing projects. It foresees investing about $835 million to $935 million in gas operations during the year.

Consol Energy Inc. anticipates asset sales between $127 million and $312 million this year. Last year the company sold $350 million in assets.

Credit Suisse analyst Richard Garchitorena lowered his fourth-quarter earnings estimate for Consol to 24 cents per share from 27 cents per share. The analysts' consensus view is 22 cents per share, according to FactSet.

Consol Energy will report fourth-quarter financial results on Jan. 31.

Consol shares fell 26 cents to $29.93 in afternoon trading.