OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia replaces energy minister with King Salman's son

Cheryl Sanders
September 10, 2019

Saudi King Salman on Sunday promoted one of his sons to the pivotal role of energy minister, strengthening his family's grip on the levers of power from oil to finance and defence.

Saudi Arabia's king named his son Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman as energy minister, installing a royal family member at the helm of the kingdom's oil policy for the first time.

Citing a royal decree, Saudi Press Agency reported that the new minister will replace Khalid al-Falih.

Abdulaziz bin Salman has served in the energy ministry for decades - most recently as state minister for energy affairs - and is seen as a capable and experienced technocrat.

Meanwhile, United Arab Emirates' energy minister Suheil Al-Mazrouei said, oil producers will do "whatever necessary" to rebalance a crude market depressed by trade tensions and an uncertain global outlooky.

Sources from the energy ministry were quoted as saying that the prince's lengthy experience has overcome what has always been seen as the impossibility of appointing a royal to the post of energy minister in Saudi Arabia, according to Gulf News.

February 26, 1997 file photo showing official of the Saudi oil company Aramco watching progress at a rig at the al-Howta oil field near Howta, Saudi Arabia.

Falih's powers were diminished last month when the world's top oil exporter announced the creation of a new ministry of industry and mineral resources, separating it from his energy ministry.

Al-Falih was also removed as board chairman of the state-owned oil company Aramco, despite the fact that he was the executive arm behind the plan to list it maybe as soon as 2020.

As a veteran of policy-making at the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Prince Abdulaziz is not expected to change the kingdom's oil policy, since he helped negotiate the current agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC countries to reduce global crude supply to support prices and balance the market, analysts say.

Aramco has not announced where the listing will be held, but London, New York and Hong Kong have all vied for a slice.

"I think he did the most he could, and I think Prince Abdulaziz will probably do something very similar with the same kind of results", said Robin Mills, CEO of Dubai-based energy consulting firm Qamar Energy.

He'll try not to disappoint his half-brother like the outgoing energy minister Khalid al-Falih did.

Prince Abdulaziz, 59, joined the oil ministry in 1987 and worked closely with previous oil ministers Hisham Nazer and later with Naimi as his deputy for years.

It was widely speculated that top officials were dissatisfied with Falih as oil prices sagged ahead of the Aramco IPO.

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