OPEC chooses Haitham al-Ghais of Kuwait as next public face | Oil and Gas News


Haitham al-Ghais will become the general secretary of OPEC in August.

Through Bloomberg

OPEC has chosen Kuwaiti oil veteran Haitham al-Ghais to become the organization’s top diplomat, as the group and its allies navigate a delicate recovery from the pandemic.

Al-Ghais – a multilingual technocrat whose three-decade career in the oil industry includes stays in Beijing and London – will become secretary-general in August, succeeding Mohammad Barkindo, according to a statement from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Monday.

His appointment comes at a time when OPEC and its partners are treading a narrow path, seeking to satisfy the recovery in oil consumption without tipping markets into oversupply. The OPEC + coalition is expected to approve another modest resumption of supplies at its meeting on Tuesday.

“He knows OPEC inside and out,” said Johannes Benigni, chairman of the JBC Energy Group consultant in Vienna. “At the same time, he knows the ins and outs of the market. He is very intelligent and a good analyst.

Although the Secretaries General do not set OPEC’s production policy, they act as the public face of the group – and as an intermediary seeking compromise between often aggressive members.

It’s a tricky task now, as oil’s return to nearly $ 80 a barrel sparks inflation fears among major consumers like the United States – where lawmakers sometimes cite threats of anti-competitive legislation – and so that climate change is accelerating the transition from fossil fuels.

Group voltages

Internal tensions within the group must also be managed. Last year, tensions emerged between two of OPEC’s long-standing allies, the group leader, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as the smaller nation pursues an array of energy and foreign policies. more and more independent.

Diplomatic balance is a mission to which Al-Ghais brings many strengths.

After working as a diplomat, he then held several positions at the state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corp., most recently as Deputy Managing Director for International Marketing. Al-Ghais also served as the country’s liaison officer to OPEC from 2017 to last year.

The appointment of a Kuwaiti to head OPEC marks a turning point for the group, which has typically allocated the post to candidates from smaller producers to offset the concentration held by its Gulf heavyweights. The smaller members will likely check if it can counterbalance the group’s most influential nation, Saudi Arabia. Al-Ghais was the only candidate and was nominated by acclamation rather than ballot on Monday.

“I would like to warmly congratulate HE Haitham Al-Ghais on his appointment, by acclamation, as the next OPEC Secretary General,” Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Prince Abdulaziz said. in a press release.

As outgoing secretary general, Barkindo resigned in July after completing the full six years allowed by the rules of the cartel, having played a central role in the creation of OPEC + at the end of 2016. Prince Abdulaziz proposed a party farewell with ministers in Vienna before he leaves, according to a person familiar with the situation. Ministers have met virtually throughout the pandemic.

(change of allocation after confirmation by OPEC in the second paragraph)

–With help from Salma El Wardany.


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