* New CEO Suttles a three-decade oil-and-gas veteran
* Suttles says will study company before making changes
* Suttles had prominent role during BP's Gulf spill
* Encana shares fall 0.9 pct in down market
By Scott Haggett and Kristen Hays
CALGARY/HOUSTON, June 11 Encana Corp
named former BP Plc executive Doug Suttles, who played a
major role in responding to BP's disastrous 2010 Gulf oil spill,
as its new chief executive on Tuesday as Canada's largest
natural-gas producer searches for a new course following years
of strategic missteps.
Suttles, a nearly three-decade veteran of the oil and gas
industry, is taking the reins from interim CEO Clayton Woitas, a
board member who replaced former CEO Randy Eresman temporarily
when Eresman left the company unexpectedly in early January.
Suttles was also named an Encana director.
Encana shares have dropped 41 percent over the past two
years as the company weathered low gas prices and a balance
sheet weakened by a focus on growth despite falling revenue.
Investors will look to Suttles to reverse the company's course,
but no one expects quick moves.
"It will take time to turn the ship around so I don't expect
miracles," said John Stephenson, a portfolio manager at First
Asset Investment Management, which owns Encana shares. "But I
think it's really positive. I think it good that he's an
outsider. Taking someone off the bench (internally) would have
viewed much more negatively."
Indeed, Suttles said he plans to study Encana, which
operates in Canada and the United States, before making any
decisions on where he'll take the company.
"My goal over the coming months is to gain an in-depth
understanding of the company's assets, capabilities of the
staff, and how we are currently performing in each of our key
areas," he said on a conference call. "With that understanding
... I will be in a position to formulate a compelling vision for
Eresman led Calgary, Alberta-based, Encana for seven years.
He faced criticism from investors over strategic changes that
included spinning off the company's oil operations as oil prices
strengthened and accelerating natural gas production even as new
shale-gas supplies flooded the market and pushed prices down.
Encana also faces a U.S. Department of Justice probe into
whether the company illegally colluded with Chesapeake Energy
Corp to lower the price of exploration lands.
Suttles was one of BP's most prominent public faces in the
weeks after the disastrous 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico,
when the company's deepwater Macondo well ruptured and spewed
more than 4 million barrels of oil into the sea over nearly
As chief operating officer of the company's exploration and
production division, he was involved in efforts to try to cap
the well, and fielded hundreds of questions about what went
wrong and about BP's frenzied and failed efforts to stop the
flow. He also directed the clean-up effort.
Among the most high-profile failures were the so-called "top
kill" and "junk shot" attempts in late May 2010, after the well
had been spewing for more than a month. The top kill, publicly
described by then-CEO Tony Hayward as having a 60 percent to 70
percent probability of pushing back the oil, involved pumping
drilling fluids heavier than oil into the well so BP could then
The junk shot, which came amid the top kill attempt,
injected solid materials such as rubber balls, shredded fibrous
materials and metals into the well. The effort was to last 48
hours, but stretched over nearly four days until Suttles
appeared at a news conference to concede it had failed.
"I can also say this scares everybody. The fact that we
can't make this well stop flowing, or we haven't succeeded in
that so far," he said at the time.
Suttles, a mechanical engineer, retired from BP in January
2011 after more than 22 years with the company. He had been COO
of global exploration and production since 2009. Before that he
was president of BP's Alaska division, having been appointed in
2007, the year after two crude oil spills from BP's pipeline
Encana shares were down 16 Canadian cents at C$18.74 at
midday on the Toronto Stock Exchange in a market that was