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GTL Expert Velocys Suspends CEO; Investigation Launched

Velocys plc, a partner in the world's first small-scale natural gas-to-liquids (GTL) project now underway in Oklahoma, has suspended CEO Roy Lipski pending an investigation into allegations of "serious misconduct."

Lipski, who works from the UK-based company's commercial headquarters in Houston, has been replaced during the investigation by CFO Susan Robertson. The news sent company shares, traded on the London Stock Exchange, down by close to 20% at noon Monday.

"Mr. Lipski's suspension does not constitute disciplinary action and does not imply any assumption whatsoever that he is guilty of any misconduct," the board stated. "The board will keep his suspension under review and will aim to make the period of suspension no longer than is reasonably necessary. The allegations do not involve any element of fraud or financial impropriety."

Lipski, who has been at Velocys since March 2006, began his career working at Goldman Sachs International. The Houston headquarters employs nearly the entire workforce of about 100 people. Velocys also has technical facilities in Oxford, UK, and Columbus, OH.

The first commercial GTL plant, renamed Envia Energy, is a joint venture with Waste Management Inc., NRG Energy Inc. and Ventech Engineers International LLC that is scheduled to get underway in the first half of 2016 (see Daily GPIMay 15March 25, 2014). Sited at Waste Management's East Oak landfill site in Oklahoma, the facility would produce renewable fuels/chemicals from natural gas or biogas. Velocys is a minority stakeholder in the project.

Last year Velocys acquired Houston's Pinto Energy LLC, a GTL project developer (see Shale DailyJune 25, 2014). The deal gave Velocys a planned 2,800 b/d GTL project in Ashtabula, OH, which is to source gas from the Appalachia Basin. Pinto, renamed Velocys Project Solutions, now is working on a "pipeline" of projects, management said.

Velocys, which said it has more than 900 patents, in late April issued its 2014 results. Lipski said at the time that last year was "one of the most successful years" in company history.

"With over $85 million of cash on the balance sheet, the unwavering support of major partners and our first commercial plant under construction, Velocys is poised to take advantage of the significant opportunities, which typically surface during times of market volatility such as these, and notwithstanding some potential near term headwinds in the oil and gas industry, to establish an even stronger business and market position," he said in April. "Interest in smaller scale GTL remains high and I look forward to achieving the significant milestones ahead of us."

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