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Kuwait appoints refining unit CEO as oil minister in new cabinet

Al-Rashidi, president and CEO of Kuwait Petroleum International, joins cabinet as part of a change

Gulf News

Kuwait City: Kuwait appointed as oil minister Bakheet Al Rashidi, who led the Opec member’s international refining unit as the business expanded from Italy to Vietnam.

Al-Rashidi, president and chief executive officer of Kuwait Petroleum International, joins the cabinet as part of a change in the Gulf country’s government, according to a royal decree published on the official news agency KUNA. He replaces Essam Al Marzouq, who held the position since December 2016. KPI is a unit of state energy producer Kuwait Petroleum Corp.

Nayef Al Hajraf, who heads the Capital Markets Authority, was appointed finance minister. His predecessor, Anas Al Saleh, becomes deputy prime minister and state minister for cabinet affairs. Shaikh Nasser Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, the emir’s eldest son, was appointed first deputy prime minister and defence minister; he had been the minister in charge of the royal court since 2006. The cabinet changes are to take effect immediately, according to the decree.

Kuwait, home to about six per cent of the world’s oil reserves, is the fifth-biggest producer in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The International Monetary Fund expects Kuwait’s economy to contract 2.5 per cent this year, squeezed by a reduction in oil output as part of an OPEC agreement aimed at tackling a global supply glut.

Oil dependence

Arabian Gulf oil producers including Kuwait are adding and expanding refineries to meet greater demand at home and make fuel for export. With crude prices at about half their highs of 2014, the producers are boosting their refining capacity as well as building petrochemical plants to help reduce their reliance on crude sales for government revenue.

Al Rashidi has spent most of his career with Kuwait National Petroleum Co., KPC’s domestic downstream arm, heading functions ranging from operational planning to technical services and corporate planning. From 2007 to 2013, he was KNPC’s deputy chairman and deputy managing director for planning and local marketing.

He has served on the board of Kuwait Oil Co., KPC’s upstream arm, and as chairman and managing director of a local joint venture, Kuwait Aromatics. He graduated from Alexandria University in Egypt with a degree in chemical engineering, according to KPI’s website.

Kuwait, which can pump about 3.15 million barrels a day of oil, plans to raise its production capacity to as much as 4.75 million barrels a day after 2030 as it builds refineries in Asia to process more of its crude, Al Rashidi said in an interview in July. KPI seeks to add or expand processing plants in China, India, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia, he said at the time.

KPI plans to be able to refine 800,000 barrels a day outside of Kuwait within five years, including at a plant under construction in Vietnam, Al Rashidi said in the interview. The company wants to increase refining capacity to 1.3 million barrels a day after 2030, and Kuwaiti crude will supply at least 65 per cent of all of KPI’s new refineries outside Kuwait, he said.

KPI has an initial agreement with Petrovietnam to double the Vietnam plant’s capacity to 400,000 barrels a day after 2025, and the expansion would include a petrochemical plant, Al Rashidi said. The company also operates a refinery in Milazzo in Italy in a joint venture with Eni SpA, according to KPI’s website.

— Bloomberg