OPEC Said to Appoint Aramco’s Abdulhamid as Research Head

OPEC appointed Saudi Arabia’s Omar Abdulhamid as head of research, according to two people with knowledge of the group’s policy.

Abdulhamid, who headed research and development at Saudi Arabian Oil Co., or Saudi Aramco, will replace Kuwait’s Hasan Qabazard, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. OPEC’s board of governors elected Abdulhamid this week in Vienna, they said.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter, and Iran were among OPEC nations vying for the second most senior post at the 12-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. An official at OPEC’s Vienna headquarters, who asked not to be identified citing policy, declined to comment on the matter.

OPEC hasn’t 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 nominee. Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s largest producer, 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 are Majid al-Moneef, Saudi Arabia’s former OPEC governor; Gholamhossein Nozari, Iran’s former oil minister; and Thamir Ghadhban, Iraq’s former oil minister.

Materials Science

Abdulhamid joined Saudi Aramco in 1986 and held several technical research posts, according to his biography on the website of Saudi Arabia’s Forum of Societal Partnership in Scientific Research. He holds a doctoral degree in materials science and engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S. In 2003, Abdulhamid completed a program in management development at Harvard Business School.

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 position is elected through voting by the board of governors upon nomination by members, unlike the Secretary General post that requires a consensus by OPEC’s oil ministers, according to OPEC’s statute.

“The appointment of Abdulhamid in the second-most senior post at the organization should be really comforting to the Saudis as their battle for OPEC’s top job is expected to reach a deadlock,” said Kamel al-Harami, an independent oil analyst based in Kuwait. “When it comes to voting, Gulf Cooperation Council candidates have better chances, but when it comes to group consensus, things get difficult as there are always odd members who don’t want to see a Saudi or any candidate from the GCC at top posts,” he said by phone today.

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 is scheduled for May 31 in Vienna.