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Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s chief oil official


Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Saudi Arabia spent most of its adult life as a waiting energy minister. But just six days after becoming the first royal country to take on the role, the kingdom’s oil production was halved as a result of a series of drone strikes that set the world’s largest crude plant on fire.

Attack on Abqaiq in September 2019, which Riyadh and Washington accuse Iran of, was the early trial of Prince Abdulaziz, the son of King Salman’s son’s infamous Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s half-brother.

As oil prices rose by 20 percent, the prince flew on a private jet from London to the eastern state of Saudi Arabia, after which he soon announced that the kingdom would be able to maintain oil reserves while repairing the damage.

Oil sellers were watching the price decline. But although Prince Abdulaziz was lucky in this case, the tests have hardly stopped since then.

In less than two years, he had to navigate the controversial list of Saudi Aramco at the end of 2019; The beginning of the Covid-19 epidemic; further short-lived price war with Russia; Then he called on President Donald Trump to change the course of the world, to lead to a record reduction in world oil production.

Proponents say the 61-year-old prince, who has been married for 34 years and has three children in his 20s, has shown that he is on par with the task. “If it were not for his experience, any of these events would have burdened the energy minister,” said Bassam Fatouh at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, where Prince Abdulaziz sits on the council.

But for his critics, Prince Abdulaziz has his flaws, including showing the two biggest tests hidden in the background.

Rising oil prices. The Brent brand has risen $ 70 a barrel This week, inflation fears are not on the horizon. And this week he was fired from the International Energy Agency’s “road map” for a purely zero future. La la land It contradicts the mood swings in the industry, which are finally taking climate change seriously.

His diplomatic prowess, to put it mildly, often stumbles upon such moments as to reveal a very proud, harsh response to criticism, or a suspicion of a more appropriate royal status. “You never know what kind of Abdulaziz you will get,” said one Opec veteran.

With lean academic spectacles, Prince Abdulaziz presents himself as a low-level but cunning negotiator who wants to build consensus. Working for technocrats like former ministers Ali al-Naimi and Khalid al-Falih, people close to him say, is a sign of his temperament, despite being a prince with immense privilege.

He still pays attention to press conferences,’s in his position as the de facto head of Opec, and goes straight to the Saudi Palace to make his way.

Last year, he warned traders who dare to bet on Saudi Arabia’s oil policy that they would “go to hell.” This week, he said he wanted to “kneel” speculators in the oil market.

He urged other Opec members to increase compliance with supply transactions. But he praises those who lead an Opec meeting with loud applause for Iraq, which is often delayed after it came close to hitting its targets.

“He likes to be unpredictable. To some extent, this is unpredictable, ”said Christian Malek, JPMorgan’s head of oil research.

Things get complicated when he is asked to respond to political actions taken by the kingdom, often by Prince Mohammed, who is its effective leader.

At last year’s Davos summit, British television crew tried to respond to allegations that Prince Mohammed was involved in hacking the phone of Amazon founder ff Bezos. When he was being chased in the corridor, Prince Abdulaziz called the interrogation line “ridiculous” and the journalist “stupid” before snatching the microphone for a short time.

He made few comments on the assassination of journalist Jamal Amal Khashoggi, which the United States said was confirmed by Prince Mohammed, although they believe their relationship will not be close to those who know Prince Abdulaziz.

His allies prefer to focus on his role in the professional specialization of relations between Saudi Arabia and the Ministry of Energy in the reconstruction of its internal electricity sector.

But while Western oil companies are pushing back on fossil fuel investment under the pressure of climate change, the kingdom is barely lowering its stakes.

Prince Mohammed wants to cut off Saudi Arabia’s economy from oil dependence, but Prince Abdulaziz sees an opportunity to increase production capacity, believing that the world will always need a cheap source of cheap fuel.

Energy Aspects analyst Amrita Sen says Prince Abdulaziz is “thinking deeply” about the challenges facing the world. “He thinks a lot about the energy sector. He addresses many of these issues. ”

However, any attempt to curb new oil projects, as suggested in the IEA Zero Roadmap, is unlikely.

“Who put that scenario? [together]said Prince Abdulaziz, “it has nothing to do with reality.”

anjli.raval@ft.com:; david.sheppard@ft.com:



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