The boss of OPEC – the powerful cartel that represents many of the world’s biggest oil producers – has died aged 63.

Mohammad Barkindo died on Tuesday evening, a spokesman said. Nigeria’s petroleum industry.

The cause of his death is not immediately known, but he is believed to have died hours after meeting the Nigerian president and speaking at an energy summit in the country.

Mr Barkindo’s term as head of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) – whose 13 member countries account for 80% of the world’s proven crude oil reserves – was due to end this month after six years.

He led the group through a dramatic drop in oil prices during the pandemic, when at one point some producers had to pay people to get rid of oil.

His legacy will likely be defined by the OPEC+ deal, struck early in his tenure in 2016 with Russia and other non-OPEC nations.

The group drastically cut production in order to stabilize the price of oil when COVID hit.

However, the deal has come under scrutiny amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the current high oil prices that are fueling soaring oil prices.

OPEC said it was a “profound loss” for the oil industry and called him “a selfless man of great humility and decency”.

In a statementOPEC said he served “with great distinction and helped it successfully weather two major industry downturns (2015-2016 and 2020-2021)”.

Mohammad Barkindo pictured with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018

In his opening speech in Abuja hours before his death, Mr Barkindo said the oil and gas industry, still reeling from huge investment losses in recent years, was “under siege”.

“In a very short time, the industry has been hit by two major cycles – the severe market downturn in 2015 and 2016, and the even deeper impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. .

Mr. Barkindo began his career in 1982 with the Nigerian Mining Corporation and worked for over two decades with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

Born in Yola, Nigeria, he studied a postgraduate degree in petroleum economics at Oxford University and an MBA at the University of Washington.

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