One of OPEC’s most transformative members passed away on the evening of July 5, 2022. His early career started with a well-decorated educational stint between Nigeria, the US, and England earning degrees in political science, petroleum economics, and business administration. From there he held positions in Nigeria’s oil company, other private companies, Nigeria’s ministry, and (most notably) OPEC. His childhood coincided with a Nigerian civil war that instilled a love of navigating conflict through diplomacy. His death was announced by the chief executive of Nigeria’s nationalized oil company through Twitter and met with much remorse and kind wishes from the public.
With 3 decades of petroleum experience spanning the globe, Haitham Al-Ghais was set to assume the role starting in August. Analysts around the world are confident in his abilities citing him as someone who, “…knows OPEC inside and out.” His greatest challenges will be navigating fresh tensions between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (not to mention Russia) in the backdrop of a global energy shortage. While it is uncertain exactly how much influence he will have through intra-organizational diplomacy, the world watches eagerly. While previous elections were drawn out and often messy, he was the only candidate for the period and was acclaimed the next secretary-general.
While Mohammed held many positions, he will be remembered as one of the most transformative secretaries-general through one of the most tumultuous stretches of time in energy. Since assuming the position in 2016 he saw many historic events in energy and navigated them successfully. One of his largest achievements was orchestrating the framework that established the foundation of OPEC+. The agreement evolved and brought OPEC into an alliance with other significant nonmember producers like Russia, Mexico, and Oman. This agreement would forever alter the trajectory of the cartel. Most of his time in this period was spent personally traveling to countries to resolve disagreements and reinforce the relationships of all members involved.
He was set to finish his term as secretary-general at the end of this month. He then planned to join the Atlantic Council as a distinguished fellow in the Global Energy Center to continue his work in energy policy. Before his passing, he was vocal on the issue of underinvestment (especially through COVID-19) leading to a severe supply-demand imbalance, though the West seemed to ignore his warnings.
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