Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 September 2019

Who is Saudi Arabia's new energy minister?

Prince Abdulaziz is a veteran of domestic and global energy landscapes

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has served in energy industry veteran. AFP
Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has served in energy industry veteran. AFP

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman is Saudi Arabia’s new energy minister and the new face of global oil diplomacy. But for those familiar with the inner workings of the kingdom’s energy ministry and its influence on Opec, the name is not new.

The prince, a veteran of the global energy landscape and the brother of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is taking the reins of the kingdom’s biggest revenue-earner from Khalid Al Falih. The transition comes at a time when the group of oil-producing nations, known as Opec, is engaged with non-Opec countries led by Russia to control a supply glut and prop up crude prices hovering between $50 and $60 a barrel.

The kingdom's energy ministry, established in 1960, has had six energy ministers to date with Ali Al Naimi serving 21 years. The longest-serving energy minister was Ahmed Zaki Yamani who held the position for two and a half decades and led the kingdom through the 1973 oil embargo. Prince Abdulaziz is the first member of the royal family to become energy minister.

Mr Al Falih became the head of the Saudi energy ministry in 2016, after a year as the health minister, to oversee the kingdom’s policy after prices crashed to below $30 per barrel earlier in the year.

He reversed his predecessor Mr Al Naimi’s strategy of maintaining output to squeeze US shale producers out of business, and instead pushed for joint cuts with Russia, Saudi Arabia’s biggest rival in the global crude export market. Under his three-year term, Saudi Arabia has fostered increasingly close relations with Russia, which leads a pack of non-member states compliant with production cuts. The duo looked to form a super-group to counter the US, currently the world’s largest producer of oil.

Prince Abdulaziz, who joined the energy ministry in the 1980s, is regarded an energy industry technocrat. Before his elevation as minister of energy through a royal decree in the early hours of Sunday, he was a state minister for energy affairs, a position he has held since 2017. He was previously the deputy minister of petroleum and mineral resources since 2015, simultaneously holding the portfolio of assistant to the petroleum and mineral resources minister during that period, according to his profile on the kingdom’s energy ministry website.

Prince Abdulaziz has also held the positions of deputy petroleum and mineral resources minister for nearly a decade after assuming the role in 1995 and served as an adviser to the ministry from 1987 to 1995.

He has been a fixture of Saudi delegations to Opec summits since 1987. Prince Abdulaziz has played a vital role in formulating the first long-term energy strategy adopted by Opec at the group’s ministerial conference in 2005 when he chaired the Opec’s committee of under-secretaries.

At home, Prince Abdulaziz has been equally influential in devising strategies that have helped in diversifying the kingdom’s economy. He headed the team formed by the ministry of petroleum and mineral resources and Saudi Aramco to prepare and revise the petroleum strategy for the kingdom.

He also led the Saudi side in the Saudi-Kuwaiti committee to discuss the future energy development of the divided zone between the two countries and the adjacent submerged territory.

The prince also chairs the executive committee that reviews and periodically adjusts the prices of energy and water products in the kingdom. He oversees the team on climate change agreements and chairs the National Committee for the Clean Development Mechanism. He was also a member of the Saudi negotiating team on the kingdom's accession to the World Trade Organization, according to his profile.

He is a 1982 graduate from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran with a bachelor's degree in industrial management. He completed his MBA from the same institute in 1985.

Updated: September 8, 2019 12:54 PM

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