OPEC Said to Consider Saudi Arabian for Research Head Job

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, has put forward a candidate to replace Hasan Qabazard as head of research at OPEC, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

The nominee, along with any others proposed by fellow members of the 12-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, will be discussed at an OPEC board of governors meeting scheduled for May 6 to May 7, they said, declining to be identified because Qabazard’s departure hasn’t been publicly announced. Two other people with knowledge of the matter also said that the producer group is looking for a new head of research, speaking on condition of anonymity.

An official at OPEC’s Vienna headquarters declined to comment. Qabazard, a Kuwaiti, couldn’t be reached for comment when called yesterday on his office or mobile phones.

OPEC also hasn’t yet chosen a replacement for its most senior executive, Secretary-General Abdalla El-Badri, who agreed in December to stay on for one more year after the group couldn’t agree on a replacement from candidates offered by Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq. Saudi Arabia is OPEC’s largest producer and holds the most sway over international oil prices because it controls the biggest portion of unused output capacity.

The three candidates to replace Libya’s el-Badri remain as before; Saudi Arabia’s former OPEC governor Majid al-Moneef, Iran’s former oil minister Gholamhossein Nozari, and Iraq’s former oil minister Thamir Ghadhban.

No Consensus

“OPEC will not reach consensus on any of the three names so the only solution for this is to have someone from Africa or South America otherwise El-Badri will remain there,” Kamel al-Harami, a Kuwait-based independent oil analyst, said by phone last week. “In these circumstances, the best option is renewal for el-Badri.”

An accord on selecting a secretary-general has proved elusive amid political tensions between those countries, with Saudi Arabia and Iran representing rival Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam, and Iran and Iraq having fought an eight-year war in the 1980s.

Officials at the media and public relations department at Saudi Arabia’s ministry of petroleum and minerals in Riyadh couldn’t be reached for comment when called by phone yesterday.

The average price of benchmark OPEC crudes ended its longest run above $100 a barrel after dropping below that level for the first time since July amid signs the global economic recovery is faltering.

Under $100

The so-called OPEC basket, a weighted average of the main grades produced by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, slipped to $98.56 a barrel yesterday, according to an e-mail today from the group’s Vienna-based secretariat. It’s the first time OPEC’s reference price has slipped below $100 since July 16 and ends a 191-day spell above that threshold.

The head of research is one of the authors of OPEC’s monthly report on oil market supply and demand, which is scheduled to be published next on May 10. The organization trimmed its 2013 estimate for global oil demand by 40,000 barrels a day in its most recent report, published on April 10, predicting annual growth of 800,000 barrels a day to 89.66 million a day.

OPEC’s members are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. The organization’s next ministerial conference will be held on May 31 in Vienna.

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