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Who Owns the Fracking Giant Cuadrilla?

There is some mystery over the individuals behind the UK’s sole fracking company, as the Government considers a U-turn, reports John Lubbock

A test drilling site for shale gas near Banks on the outskirts of Southport, Lancashire. Photo: Ashley Cooper/Alamy

Who Owns the Fracking GiantCuadrilla?

There is some mystery over the individuals behind the UK’s sole fracking company, as the Government considers a U-turn, reports John Lubbock

With several media outlets reporting that the UK Government is considering a U-turn on fracking – also keeping open the possibility of restarting drilling for shale gas – now seems a pertinent time to ask who owns the fracking company Cuadrilla, which holds licenses for 10 sites in the UK.

Although Reuters has reported that Cuadrilla still plans to plug one of its fracking wells as mandated, the Government has refused to rule out a return to fracking, saying it is considering all options.

Cuadrilla’s ownership structure is somewhat opaque. The company’s website says that “Cuadrilla is owned 96% by AJ Lucas, an Australian specialist service provider to the energy, mining and infrastructure sector”. However, the company’s page on Companies House redacts the name of ‘two people with significant control’.

In 2017, those behind Cuadrilla won approval to keep their identities secret. According to Corporate Watch, “the four individuals that ultimately control Cuadrilla Resources Holdings Ltd, the UK-registered parent company of the Cuadrilla group, are using an exemption in the Government’s ‘Persons of Significant Control’ legislation, introduced last year to protect their identities.”

Corporate Watch continues: “Section 790ZG in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act, which brought in the register, allows details to be withheld if the individuals can prove they are at risk of violence, intimidation or ‘targeting by activists’”.

In 2014, the Frack Off website reported that Lord John Browne of Madingley, a crossbench member of the House of Lords, owned 30% of Cuadrilla – something contradicted by a spokesperson for Browne, who told Byline Times that “He did not own 30% of Cuadrilla, nor did he have any direct shareholding in the company.” Browne was formerly a managing partner of Riverstone Holdings, the venture capital firm behind Cuadrilla. The Guardian also previously reported that he was chairman of Cuadrilla Resources.

Lord Browne is now ‘Chairman of BeyondNetZero, a climate growth equity venture’, according to his LinkedIn page, which doesn’t mention Cuadrilla, but does mention Riverstone, which previously owned 45% of Cuadrilla. 

Browne left in 2015 to become the executive chairman of L1 Energy, “an oil and gas firm backed by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman”, according to DeSmog.

The Ukraine war has thrown Western connections to the Russian oil and gas industry into the spotlight. BP is having to withdraw from a joint project with Russia’s largest oil producer which could see it lose $25 billion. Mikhail Fridman’s shareholding in L1 has been frozen by the company as it seeks to avoid the fallout from Western sanctions. He has now stepped down from all his company boards and management positions.

A spokesperson for Lord Browne said that his “relationship with L1 ended last year in October 2021. He resigned as executive chairman of L1 in March 2021, which was followed by a notice period that he honoured.”

Browne was replaced by Roy Franklin as chairman of Cuadrilla. Like Browne, Franklin worked at BP and also chairs North Sea oil producer Premier Oil and the energy services group Wood.

According to DeSmog, Franklin has “been part of government bodies like PILOT (formerly the Oil and Gas task force) which facilitates partnerships between the industry and government. And in 2004, he was awarded the OBE for services to the UK oil and gas industry.”

Greenpeace found in 2015 that Cuadrilla was “majority owned by entities based in offshore tax havens”, and that Cuadrilla’s parent company, AJ Lucas, was “substantially bankrolled by Kerogen Capital, registered in the Cayman [Islands]”. Kerogen appears to hold 65% of the shares in AJ Lucas.

Kerogen is a private equity fund advisor with offices in Hong Kong and London, managing a number of private equity funds. In 2012, Forbes Private Capital Group said that one of these funds will “primarily invest in geographies of strategic importance to Asian demand, particularly China, which is expected to account for over 50% of the net increase in world oil demand over the next 25 years”.

According to Greenpeace, Kerogen’s “co-owner and executive chairman, Ivor Orchard, is a Cuadrilla board member, while Kerogen advisory board member, Roy Franklin, was appointed Cuadrilla chairman in 2015”. AJ Lucas’ chairman, Phil Arnall, is also a Cuadrilla board member.

Before 2007, Ivor Orchard was ‘Head of the Energy and Natural Resources Group in Asia Pacific’ at JP Morgan.

One of the board members of Kerogen is Dr Natasha Tsukanova, the founder of Russian company Xenon Capital Partners and former employee of the Russian Privatisation Ministry. Xenon Capital has just five employees and doesn’t seem to be an active company.

A spokesperson for Cuadrilla told us that “Cuadrilla is owned 96% by AJ Lucas (AJL) a listed company on the Australian Stock Exchange. The remaining 4% is held by current and former employees of Cuadrilla. AJL shares can be traded in Australia and bought and sold by anyone authorised to do so in Australia and its shareholding is transparent and public.”

They added that, “Kerogen Capital is a shareholder of AJL and has a website which shows its invested companies and there is nothing opaque about it. Natasha Tsukanova has been a member of the Kerogen Advisory Board since 2012 holds no interest (direct or indirect) in any of the Kerogen funds or underlying portfolio companies and has now, or in the past, had no connection or interaction whatsoever with Cuadrilla.”

We have made a request to Companies House to reveal the beneficial owners of Cuadrilla Resources. So far we have not received a reply.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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