Iraq energy - Six key people

31 July 2008

The six key figures in the Iraqi energy sector: Hussein al-Shahristani, Ashti Hawrami, Natiq al-Bayati, Abdullah Qassim al-Emir, Manaa Abdullah al-Obaydi and Jabbar al-Luaibi.

Hussein al-Shahristani

Position: Oil minister

Biography: A former nuclear scientist and one-time prisoner of the notorious Abu Ghraib jail, Hussein al-Shahristani was appointed oil minister in May 2006. A member of the United Iraqi Alliance parliamentary bloc, he was handpicked by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to take over the government’s most important department on account of his reputation for probity. His first action was to attempt to put an end to racketeering and corruption within the ministry and its engineering division. He is engaged in a protracted row with the Kurdistan Regional Government over the latter’s signing of production-sharing agreements with foreign oil companies. Al-Shahristani has overseen Iraq’s ambitious project to draw in international oil companies (IOCs) via short-term technical support contracts, but has grown impatient with the oil majors over their reluctance to proceed quickly.

Contact Tel: (+9641) 727 0710

Ashti Hawrami

Position: Natural resources minister, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)

Biography: An experienced former international oil consultant who ran his own company, Exploration Consultants, Ashti Hawrami has proven to be an ambitious and energetic oil minister for the Kurdish provinces. He has been a strong advocate of Kurdish autonomy on energy matters and has aggressively pursued negotiations with foreign oil companies, signing more than 20 production-sharing agreements - although their validity remains disputed by the federal authorities. Hawrami’s experience as a senior oil executive has stood the Kurds in good stead, but there are concerns that the tough stance he has adopted towards Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani could harm the Kurds’ chances of securing export routes. He nonetheless remains a powerful figure in the Kurdish political hierarchy, closely connected to KRG President Massoud Barzani.

Contact Tel: (+9646) 6220 0600

Natiq al-Bayati

Position: Head of Contracts & Licensing Office, Oil Ministry

Biography: An oil industry veteran who joined Iraq National Oil Corporation in 1967, Natiq al-Bayati was director general for reservoirs and field development from 1999 to 2003. Between 1980 and 1988, he was responsible for keeping production going at the Majnoon and Nahr Umar fields as the Iraq-Iran war waged. In his new position, he is charged with leading negotiations with international oil companies. He has good credentials for the job: since 1991, he has been closely involved in negotiations with IOCs and it is this role on which he will now concentrate, as head of the Contracts & Licensing Office within the Oil Ministry. Al-Bayati is highly rated, but his new office was only recently established and he lacks a strong team to support him in talks with international oil executives on what are highly complex contract discussions.

Contact Tel: (+9641) 727 0710

Abdullah Qassim al-Emir

Position: Oil consultant to the Prime Minister’s office

Biography: Abdullah Qassim al-Emir advises Prime Minister Al-Maliki on oil policy and has emerged as a key figure mediating between the Oil Ministry and the prime minister on energy policy - besides having a strong influence on the negotiations with foreign oil majors. Another experienced industry hand, and a graduate from Birmingham University in the UK with a degree in petroleum production engineering, he has held various positions with the Oil Ministry, and has been a deputy director at State Company for Oil Projects (Scop). He has largely taken over Thamer al-Ghadhban’s role as the prime minister’s main adviser on oil matters, and is set to remain a key figure in the formulation of government strategy. A former adviser on foreign relations to previous Iraqi oil minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulloum, he has successfully moved up the chain of command.

Manaa Abdullah al-Obaydi

Position: Director general, North Oil Company (NOC)

Biography: As head of the state-owned NOC, along with South Oil Company (SOC) the main oil-producing company, Manaa Abdullah al-Obaydi is a key figure in the Iraqi oil sector, to the extent that the government has put a block on him leaving the country at the same time as his colleague, Hunar Najib Hassan, head of Northern Gas Company, in case both should be lost to the industry. With 38 years’ service to NOC, Al-Obaydi has a reputation for avoiding politics and getting on with the job. He has also garnered a reputation as a man of action, recently ordering the pulling out of rigs from an area of the Kirkuk field that had become embroiled in a dispute between the Baghdad Oil Ministry and the Kurdistan Regional Government. Al-Obaydi’s current mission is to boost northern crude exports to fresh highs with a target capacity of 1 million b/d.

Contact Tel: (+9645) 025 0000

Jabbar al-Luaibi

Position: Adviser to the oil minister

Biography: Jabbar al-Luaibi’s position remains in a state of flux. Officially removed as director general of SOC, Iraq’s largest oil-producing company, in early June, in favour of his deputy Kifah Nauman, MEED understands that he remains in post for the moment. A highly experienced and respected figure, this Basra native earned a reputation for competence at SOC and enjoyed a relatively strong relationship with the key service contractor groups in southern Iraq. Al-Luaibi also boasts strong technical credentials. However, Prime Minister Al-Maliki’s decision to move him from SOC to an advisory position has been attributed to conflicting causes. One view is that the prime minister wanted to remove the entire leadership of SOC to bring in staff loyal to the centre. The precise role that Al-Luaibi will have remains to be seen, but for now he is still a key figure of influence within Iraq’s most productive basin.

Contact Tel: (+9644) 031 9310

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