Kuwaiti oil veteran Haitham Al Ghais takes over as Opec secretary general

Mr Al Ghais, who will serve a three-year term, succeeds the late secretary general Mohammad Barkindo

Haitham Al Ghais was appointed Opec secretary general on January 3 and assumed his duties on Monday. AFP
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Kuwaiti oil executive Haitham Al Ghais on Monday took over as secretary general of Opec to lead the oil producers’ alliance during a challenging period as the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues to add to crude price volatility in the market.

Mr Al Ghais was appointed for a three-year term at a special Opec conference on January 3 this year. He succeeds secretary general Mohammad Barkindo, who died on July 6.

“It is a great honour for me to be at the helm of an organisation that has been instrumental in supporting a stable and sustainable supply of oil to the world for more than 61 years,” Mr Al Ghais said in a statement on Monday.

“Opec has been at the forefront of promoting dialogue, co-operation and partnerships to achieve its mission … I look forward to working with all our member countries and our many partners around the world to ensure a sustainable and inclusive energy future which leaves no one behind,” he said.

Mr Al Ghais also said that the UAE, one of the world's largest oil producers, plays pivotal role in securing global energy supplies, while extending his gratitude to President Sheikh Mohamedfor the Emirates' support of his candidacy, according to a statement from Wam.

The UAE, which will host the 28th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (Cop28) next year, plays a leading role in backing the Opec+ agreement by "laying sound foundations and expanding its co-operation, which supports the interests of the market, consumers and oil-producing countries", he added.

Mr Al Ghais, a veteran of state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and Kuwait’s Opec governor from 2017 to June 2021, will have to take on the role of a global mediator and fill the shoes of Barkindo, who led the group for two consecutive terms.

The late secretary general was instrumental in the signing of the Declaration of Co-operation (DOC) in December 2016 that paved the way for 13 Opec member countries teaming up with major non-Opec oil producers, including Russia, to create the Opec+ super group to stabilise the oil market.

Opec+ has been shepherding crude markets since the signing of DOC and achieved a historic reduction of 9.7 million barrels a day between May 2020 and July 2021, to adjust supply following the coronavirus outbreak.

On June 30, Opec+ announced plans to bring 648,000 barrels a day of additional crude to the market in August. The output increase fully restores the 5.8 million bpd production that was cut during the pandemic.

Looking ahead, the new secretary general will have to work together with non-Opec producers to chart the new course to restore balance in the market.

Oil prices have remained volatile in recent months as investors weigh concerns about a demand growth slump amid fears of a looming global recession against supply constraints driven by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The war in eastern Europe, which pushed Brent prices to a notch under $140 per barrel in March, continues to be a threat for global energy supplies in an already tight market.

Brent, the benchmark for two thirds of the world crude, has given up some gains from the highs in March but it has mostly remained above the $100 per barrel mark.

Brent was trading 2.56 per cent lower at $101.31 a barrel at 4.16pm UAE time on Monday. West Texas Intermediate, which tracks US crude, was down 3.25 per cent to $95.41 a barrel.

Mr Al Ghais is a respected oil technocrat and known Opec figure.

He brings a wealth of experience from his diplomatic background and his career in the energy and oil sectors.

His career in the industry spans 30 years and he has advised six Kuwaiti oil ministers, Opec said.

Updated: August 01, 2022, 6:19 PM