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U.K. Shale Driller Cuadrilla Names Former BHP Executive as CEO

Cuadrilla Resources Ltd., a U.K. shale-gas explorer that suspended drilling in northwest England after causing minor earthquakes, named a former head of BHP Billiton Ltd.’s petroleum unit as chief executive officer.

Francis Egan will take up the CEO post on July 9. He replaces Mark Miller, who will stay with the company as director of the Bowland Shale exploration and development program, the company said in an e-mailed statement today.

Cuadrilla, which says it’s found more natural gas trapped in the local shale rock than Iraq has in its entire reserves, plans to pursue hydraulic fracturing in three wells by the end of this year. The program hinges on getting final approval from Britain’s energy department, which called for an assessment of fracking after two tremors near Blackpool last year.

“As Cuadrilla prepares to fully explore the potential of shale gas in the U.K., Francis’s extensive industry knowledge will mean that the company will be well positioned to unlock the potential of shale gas and most importantly set the very highest standards of safety,” said John Browne, chairman of Cuadrilla and the former CEO of BP Plc.

Fracking, as the process is known, uses water, sand and chemicals to open fissures and has made the U.S. the world’s largest natural-gas producer. European nations have hesitated to endorse the technique because of concerns it may pollute water. France and Bulgaria have banned the practice.

“As CEO my fundamental commitments are to safety and environmental protection,” Egan said in a statement. “I appreciate that there are still important questions about shale exploration in the communities in which we operate, so my first priority will be to ensure Cuadrilla continues to listen to and work with our local communities in Lancashire.”

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