Kuwaiti oil and gas veteran Haitham Al-Ghais on Monday took over as secretary general of Opec — the nation’s first leader of the 13-member group.

Al-Ghais replaces previous secretary general Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, who died on 5 July.

Al-Ghais said: “Throughout its history, 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.”

Al-Ghais was appointed by acclamation for a three-year term during a “special meeting of the Opec Conference” in January, the group said.

Al-Ghais told Kuna, the state-run Kuwaiti news agency that his unanimous selection by Opec’s 13-member countries reflects Kuwait’s position among the group members and showcases the efforts made by top officials, including the nation’s oil minister and deputy prime minister.

A 30-year veteran of Kuwait’s oil and gas industry, Al-Ghais has held senior positions in state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) and was the nation’s Opec governor from 2017 until last year.

Al-Ghais had also chaired a joint technical committee between Opec and other countries outside the group, responsible for monitoring oil production and studying conditions of the oil markets, according to the production reduction agreement between the Opec+ grouping.

In his most recent role, he was the deputy managing director for KPC’s international marketing business.

Saudi backing

Al-Ghais is likely to be supported in his role by Opec kingpin Saudi Arabia, along with most other regional oil producers.

He also inherits an Opec facing multiple challenges in an ever-evolving energy landscape.

Uncertainty over long-term global oil demand has grown due to a faster-than-expected energy transition and demand destruction during Covid-19 lockdowns.

Geopolitical concerns in Europe and the Middle East and tightening supplies, especially in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions that followed, continue to pose challenges.

Al Ghais also needs to convince world powers that Opec member nations cannot rapidly scale up production, given the lack of investment in the upstream sector in recent years.

The Opec+ grouping, which includes Russia, last month rubber-stamped plans to boost output by 648,000 barrels per day in August and is set to meet later this week to decide on its future course of action.

However, experts have raised doubts about the group’s ability to swiftly increase production owing to limited spare capacities and technical challenges.

In a recent social media post, Al-Ghais acknowledged Barkindo’s steady hand when the global oil market was going through a turbulent phase.

“His remarkable role and valuable contributions, along with our organisation’s long history of dialogue and co-operation, put us in a strong position to continue supporting stability and balance in the global oil market,” Al-Ghais noted.

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