Nigerian authorities announced Wednesday that the Secretary-General of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries had died.
Mohammad Barkindo, 63, died late Tuesday, according to a spokesperson for Nigeria’s petroleum ministry. The cause of his death was unknown at the time. OPEC, the Vienna-based oil cartel he oversaw, did not immediately respond.
Mele Kyari, Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, described Barkindo’s death as “a great loss to his immediate family, the NNPC, our country Nigeria, OPEC, and the global energy community.”
Since August 2016, Nigerian Barkindo has led the crude oil bloc through some of its most turbulent times, including during the pandemic, when oil prices plummeted due to declining demand. During his tenure as OPEC’s chairman, he guided the organisation, working to keep its various members’ positions united.
The 13 OPEC member countries have 1.24 billion proven crude oil reserves between them, accounting for 80 percent of the world’s share. OPEC producers account for just under 38 % of global crude oil production. OPEC members, on the other hand, contributed roughly 48 percent of total global crude oil exports last year.
Barkindo’s legacy, however, might be most tied to his final years overseeing OPEC as the group entered into an agreement known as OPEC+ with major non-OPEC producer, Russia. That agreement, which is set to expire this year, helped to steady the volatile oil market during the pandemic, though it has come under increased scrutiny and criticism amid current high oil prices and as the U.S. and other Western nations try to squeeze Russia’s economy over the war in Ukraine. Brent crude has traded at over $100 a barrel.
When Barkindo died, he was nearing the end of his tenure at OPEC. He began his career in 1982 with the Nigerian Mining Corporation before moving on to multiple roles at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation over the next two decades. Barkindo previously worked as the Deputy Managing Director of Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas, a joint venture between the NNPC and multinational oil companies Shell, Total, and Eni.
He was born in Yola, Nigeria, and attended Nigerian universities before earning a postgraduate degree in petroleum economics from Oxford University in the United Kingdom and an MBA from Washington University in the United States.
Barkindo was named a distinguished follower of the Atlantic Council in March, which hosts an annual global energy forum at which he frequently headlines and speaks.