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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

New man at the helm for UK energy major seeking to fuel fracking boom

Ineos' CEO Ron Coyle Coyle’s tasks include winning over a sceptical British public, which has doubts about the safety of fracking

The JS Ineon Insight arrives to dock at Grangemouth in Scotland. Andy Buchanan / AFP
The JS Ineon Insight arrives to dock at Grangemouth in Scotland. Andy Buchanan / AFP

Ineos, Britain’s largest closely held company, has taken another step toward creating a shale boom on its side of the Atlantic.

The company promoted Ron Coyle to the chief executive role of its shale division. He has been with Ineos for almost 20 years, most recently as commercial director for its phenol division. He will oversee a subsidiary that includes three of the engineers that helped to start the US hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” boom in Texas.

Mr Coyle’s tasks include winning over a sceptical British public, which has been loathe to extend reliance on fossil fuels and has doubts about the safety of fracking. He will also be in charge of a gas exploration campaign criss-crossing England, with success - in the form of commercial quantities of the fuel - not guaranteed.

Ineos’ fracking plans are already underway. The company is the largest holder of UK shale gas exploration licences, with more than 1 million acres (405,000 hectares). It foresees drilling dozens of wells within the next year, and has submitted planning applications for two sites in northern England and proposed a third.

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The company has said exploring shale gas is the best option for Britain, which may import almost 80 per cent of its gas by 2035 and is reducing its reliance on more carbon-intensive coal. Still, support for domestic exploration remains low, with only 16 per cent of the public approving of shale gas extraction, according to a government survey. A third of Britons disapprove, and the Labour Party and Liberal Democrat Party pledged to ban fracking in their party manifestos before June’s general election.

Concerns intensified in 2011 when fracking caused two earthquakes in north-west England. Although they were barely felt, the government put a one-year ban on the practice before saying it could be done safely. Two companies, Cuadrilla Resources, which caused the earthquakes, and Third Energy UK Gas have permission to frack wells in the UK and expect to complete the work by next year.

Mr Coyle has already started his new post, replacing Gary Haywood, who retired.

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