Colette Cohen, head of Centrica’s UK oil and gas production business, has been appointed as the first chairman of the National College for Onshore Oil and Gas.
The National College brings together the expertise of a number of engineering companies and colleges – including Strathclyde University and Glasgow-based Weir Group.
Centrica – which owns the Scottish and British Gas energy brands – bought into shale gas exploration licences owned by Cuadrilla for north west England in a deal worth up to £160m in June last year.
Cohen’s first role will be to lead the development board and guide the National College through its business planning phase. She brings 24 years of experience of working on onshore, offshore and international projects, including Western Europe’s biggest onshore oil field at Wytch Farm in Dorset.
Ken Cronin, Chief Executive, UK Onshore Oil and Gas Association (UKOOG), said: “To have someone of Colette’s experience and seniority guiding the National College right from the start allied to the superb group of academics working on the project gives me confidence that we can build a college that will train the next generation of onshore oil and gas engineers and other specialists to meet the shale industry’s future skills needs.”
UK Business Minister Matthew Hancock said:“Colette Cohen has a thoroughly important job training the next generation of onshore oil and gas engineers and specialists who will extract the shale gas from beneath the ground. This new National College will equip people with the right skills to get a good job in the oil and gas industry and help Britain prosper.”
A chemistry graduate from Queens College, Belfast, Cohen worked in the 1990s as an engineer both offshore and onshore, including on the development of the Wytch Farm oil field in Dorset – which is the largest onshore oil field in Western Europe.
Later, while based in Houston, she headed up unconventional technology development before running the Lower 48 Gulf Coast region, covering development of both offshore and onshore assets. She has served as President, Caspian Region, for ConocoPhillips in Kazakhstan and was awarded a Jubilee Medal by the Kazakh Prime Minister in recognition of her contribution to the oil and gas industry in Kazakhstan.
Since 2013, Cohen has headed up Centrica’s upstream oil and gas business in the UK and Netherlands. Centrica is the largest gas producer in the UK, and is at the forefront of shale gas development through its joint venture with Cuadrilla in Lancashire. She also serves on related boards, including the Technology Leadership Board and the Oil & Gas UK board.
The National College for Onshore Oil and Gas is based in Blackpool, Lancs. near where Cuadrilla Resources has applied for planning permission to set up two shale gas drilling wells at Preston New Road. The local authority is due to decide on 28-29 January on these applications.
The Government has already granted the environmental permits Cuadrilla needs to carry out operations safely at its proposed shale gas exploration sites at Preston New Road.
The Environment Agency has over the last six months conducted a rigorous assessment of Cuadrilla’s applications and carried out two periods of extensive public consultation. The permits set out the conditions Cuadrilla must follow to protect groundwater, surface water and air quality and to ensure the safe storage, management and disposal of waste.
An Agency spokesman said: “After completing a rigorous assessment of Cuadrilla’s application and the public consultation responses, we are confident the permits issued will ensure people and the environment are protected. The right controls are in place to manage waste and the flaring of gas safely, and protect local water resources.”