The chair of Rathlin Energy, David Montagu-Smith, has left the board, the company has announced.
Mr Montagu-Smith, a founding member of the company, stepped down from his role on 1 July 2020.
Since appointment to the board in 2008, he has overseen the drilling of two wells at Rathlin’s West Newton-A site in East Yorkshire.
The company is currently preparing a second site, West Newton B, nearby. A well at Crawberry Hill, also in East Yorkshire, was plugged and abandoned and the site restored to farmland.
A statement from Rathlin’s board said:
“David has played an integral role in the success of a business that is currently appraising a significant oil and gas discovery and is positioned with a firm exploration foothold established in East Yorkshire.
“Now, after working for over fifty years in the international oil and natural gas industry, David feels it is time to retire.
“The Board has benefited greatly from his vision and strong leadership, and Rathlin Energy (UK) Limited will undoubtedly continue to grow stronger in the years to come because of his past guidance and advice.”
Mr Montagu-Smith was criticised by anti-fracking campaigners in 2013 when he helped to shape policy on fracking for the countryside group, CPRE. That year, as the then chair of West Northamptonshire District committee of CPRE, he wrote to members about what he saw as the benefits of fracking:
“There is a clear energy security benefit if fracked gas displaces imports, and it should stimulate economic growth and local employment. Neighbouring communities will benefit financially under schemes that are proposed.”
Since then, CPRE has since taken a strong stand against fracking and has opposed the development of a UK shale gas industry.
Mr Montagu-Smith has repeatedly said Rathlin Energy would not use high volume hydraulic fracturing in East Yorkshire. But he has continued to support it publicly. In a letter to the Financial Times in 2019, he said:
“UK onshore gas is never likely to make a critical impact on total gas supply and will certainly never affect wholesale prices (set by daily, weekly, monthly supply and demand).
“But it would, at the margin, offset increasing gas imports and make a valuable tax contribution. It could also help regenerate the oilfield service industries now in retreat as UK continental shelf oil/gas production continues its inexorable decline.”
Rathlin’s statement said it would “continue to progress the ongoing exploration and appraisal activities of the company and its partners, in East Yorkshire, with the testing of the West Newton A-2 well and the drilling and testing of the West Newton B-1 well”.
- Rathlin Energy was fully owned by the Calgary-based Connaught Oil & Gas. In November 2018, the investment firm, Reabold Resources, bought into Rathlin and increased its stake in the West Newton licence in May 2020.