Meziane spent the first 17 years of his career at Sonatrach, in 1980 becoming vice-president responsible for petrochemicals, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and refining. He moved to the Energy & Mines Ministry in 1984, where he headed the hydrocarbons directorate and represented the government at OPEC meetings.

Meziane takes the helm of Sonatrach at a key time as the company seeks to boost output, draw in increased international investment and expand its own overseas operations.

Speaking at the ceremony to mark Meziane’s appointment, Khelil announced that production capacity was set to rise by a further 100,000 barrels a day (b/d) by the end of 2003, bringing total output to 1.3 million b/d.

The rise brings within reach Khelil’s 2005 production target of 1.5 million b/d. The ministry is aiming for output of 2 million b/d by 2010. However, with rising production, Algiers risks the growing possibility of conflict with OPEC especially after the organisation lowered Algeria’s quota to 782,000 b/d at the September OPEC meeting.