ABUJA (Nigeria) -- Wednesday's announcement by Nigerian authorities and the oil cartel was that the Secretary-General of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries had died. He had just hours before his death met with the Nigerian president and spoke out in defense of the industry, which was under increasing pressure from climate change.
Mohammad Barkindo (63), died in Abuja late Tuesday night, a spokesman from Nigeria's Petroleum Ministry told The Associated Press. His cause of death was not immediately clear. His death was confirmed by the Vienna-based oil cartel, which said he was a "much loved leader" of OPEC.
Industry insiders were shocked to hear of his death. His second term at OPEC was due to expire in three weeks, on July 31. Since 2016, he had held the position for six years.
First confirmed by Mele Kyari, the managing director at the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (Nigeria), Barkindo's passing was via a tweet.
According to OPEC, Barkindo said that he was glad to have ended his term as secretary-general. He also stated that he had done the best he could.
Barkindo led the crude-oil bloc through some of the most turbulent times in its recent history, including during the COVID-19 Pandemic when oil prices fell due to falling demand. Barkindo helped to guide the group and worked to ensure that its members held the same positions.
OPEC's 13 member states have 1.24 Billion proven crude oil reserves, which is 80% of the global share. OPEC producers account for just 38% of the total world crude oil production.
In the midst of global efforts to combat climate change, his role as OPEC representative was even more important in previous years. Barkindo used the platform to promote a larger role for the industry in discussions about the energy transition. He sided with oil producers, who believe that more oil and gas investments are necessary to ensure the world can continue to use alternative energy sources.
"Our industry is facing enormous challenges on multiple fronts, and these threaten our investment opportunities now and in the long-term." He stated that the oil and gas industry was under siege, just hours before his death at a Nigerian energy conference.
U.N.-backed scientists and authors have stated that the world must reduce its oil, coal and gas production by at least half in the next decade if it is to prevent global warming reaching dangerous levels. They recommend that investments in oil and natural gas be stopped and redirected to more sustainable forms of energy.
Barkindo's legacy is tied to his last years as OPEC+ chairman, when the group signed an agreement with Russia, a major non-OPEC producer. This agreement, which was spearheaded by Russia and Saudi Arabia, has helped stabilize oil markets as the world recovers from the pandemic. However, it has been criticized due to current high oil prices as well as as U.S. and other Western countries trying to squeeze Russia's economy in response to the conflict in Ukraine. Brent crude oil has risen to $100 per barrel in the past year.
Around 48% of world crude oil exports were made by OPEC member states last year. Saudi Arabia, which exports 6.23 million barrels of crude oil per day last year, is the largest OPEC member. Russia, a non-OPEC producer of crude oil, exported 4.5 millions barrels last year.
Haitham al Ghais, an experienced member of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation was appointed to succeed Barkindo.
Born in Yola in Nigeria's east, Barkindo started his career at the Nigerian Mining Corporation (in 1982), before he held multiple positions over the course of more than 20 years at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. Barkindo also served as the deputy managing director for Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas.
For many years, he had led Nigeria's technical delegation at the U.N. Climate Change Negotiations. He also served as vice president of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties for several terms.
After attending university in Nigeria, he earned a post-graduate degree (in petroleum economics) from Oxford University in England and a MBA from Washington University in America.
Barkindo was greeted by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, Tuesday. According to an OPEC report of the meeting. Buhari also congratulated him for his time at OPEC. Nigeria is an OPEC member for over 50 years.
After his term at OPEC, Barkindo was to be a distinguished fellow of the Atlantic Council. He was a regular speaker at the Atlantic Council’s global energy forum.
Batrawy reported from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.