OPEC secretary general dies weeks before leaving


FILE – OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo speaks during the Atlantic Council World Energy Forum at Expo 2020 Dubai, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, March 28, 2022 Barkindo died on Tuesday evening, a spokesman for the Nigerian Oil Ministry told The Associated Press on Wednesday, July 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)


The Secretary General of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has died, Nigerian authorities and the oil cartel announced on Wednesday. Just hours before his death, he had met the Nigerian president and stood up for the energy industry in the face of growing pressure from climate change.

Mohammad Barkindo, 63, died Tuesday night in Abuja, a spokesman for Nigeria’s oil ministry told The Associated Press. The cause of his death was not immediately known. The Vienna-based oil cartel also confirmed his death, saying he was a “highly valued leader” of OPEC.

His death came as a surprise to industry insiders. His second term as head of OPEC was due to end in three weeks, on July 31. He had held the position for six years since 2016.

Barkindo’s death was first confirmed in a tweet from Nigerian National Petroleum Company Managing Director Mele Kyari.

The OPEC statement indicates that Barkindo’s last words to his friends were that he was happy to have completed his term as General Secretary, that he had served the best he could and that he was proud of those who had served with him.

Barkindo led the crude oil bloc through some of its most turbulent times in recent memory, including during the COVID-19 pandemic when oil prices fell due to falling demand. He helped guide the group, working to keep its members’ positions unified.

The 13 member states of OPEC have between them 1.24 billion proven reserves of crude oil, or 80% of the world share. Of total world crude oil production, the share of OPEC producers is just under 38%.

His role as an OPEC representative has taken on even greater importance in recent years as part of a global effort to combat climate change. Barkindo has used his platform to advocate for a bigger role for the energy industry in energy transition conversations. This puts him firmly on the side of oil producers who say more investment in oil and gas is needed until the world is able to run on alternative forms of energy.

“Our industry is now facing enormous challenges on several fronts and these threaten our investment potential now and in the longer term. To put it bluntly, the oil and gas industry is under siege,” he said hours before his death at an energy conference in Nigeria.

Scientists and authors of UN-backed studies say the world must more than halve its production of coal, oil and gas over the next decade to stand a chance of preventing global warming from dying out. reach dangerous levels. To do this, they say, investments in oil and gas must stop and be redirected to cleaner forms of energy.

Barkindo’s legacy, however, is perhaps more tied to his final years as head of OPEC as the group struck a deal known as OPEC+ with major non-OPEC producer, the Russia. The deal, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, has helped stabilize oil markets as the world emerges from the pandemic, although it has come under criticism amid current high oil prices and then that the United States and other Western countries tried to squeeze the Russian economy during the war. in Ukraine. Brent has exceeded $100 a barrel this year.

Last year, OPEC member states accounted for about 48% of all world crude oil exports. Saudi Arabia is by far the largest crude exporter within OPEC, with 6.23 million barrels per day of crude exports last year. A non-OPEC producer, Russia exported 4.5 million barrels of crude last year.

Barkindo’s successor, Haitham al-Ghais, a veteran of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, was due to take office in August.

Born in the town of Yola in eastern Nigeria, Barkindo began his career with the Nigerian Mining Corporation in 1982 before serving in a number of positions over more than two decades with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, including as CEO. He also served as Deputy Managing Director of Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas.

He led Nigeria’s technical delegation to the United Nations climate change negotiations for years and served several terms as Vice President of the United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change.

He attended college in Nigeria before earning a postgraduate degree in petroleum economics from Oxford University in the UK and an MBA from the University of Washington in the US.

During his meeting in Abuja on Tuesday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari told Barkindo: “Welcome home!” according to an OPEC reading of the meeting. Buhari also congratulated him on his tenure in OPEC. Nigeria has been a member of OPEC for 50 years.

Barkindo was due to join the Atlantic Council as a distinguished member next month, after completing his term in OPEC. He was a frequent speaker at the Atlantic Council’s World Energy Forum.


Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Lynn A. Saleh