Library / Biographies | Industries

Date of review: December 2019
Book author: Ali Al-Naimi
Вook published: 2016

Out of the Desert: My Journey from Nomadic Bedouin to the Heart of Global Oil by Ali Al-Naimi (2016)

The book provides a good overview of the history of oil in Saudi Arabia and the inner details on the creation and work of Saudi Aramco. Al-Naimi also shares interesting perspectives on Saudi society, although, unfortunately, not so much on the most recent political changes and leadership.

From bedouin roots to the most important person in the global oil industry

Ali Al-Naimi is one of the most famous names in the world's oil industry, having run the largest oil company, Saudi Aramco, and later heading the Ministry of Petroleum collectively for almost three decades.

What is especially interesting is that Ali Al-Naimi was raised from bedouin roots to become the most important person in the global oil industry, having the biggest influence on Saudi Arabia's most precious resources without any connections to the Royal family.

The book lacks strong opinions, in my view, which is understandable given the high political role that Al-Naimi played for so long.

Author's opinion on cooperation between OPEC and other large oil producers like Russia

One big takeaway for me was the author's opinion on cooperation between OPEC and other large oil producers like Russia. Al-Naimi stressed a few times that such cooperation was possible if and only key players (Russia, in particular) were fully committed to such cooperation. He recalled his meeting with Russian officials, including Igor Sechin, in 2008 and his feelings about the lack of trust that prevented full cooperation on oil production cuts during the Global Financial Crisis. He referred to the same lack of trust in Russia as one of the reasons he did not support a wide production cut in 2014-2015. It is interesting that after he was replaced as the Petroleum Minister, Saudi Arabia reversed its view on the need to cut production and cooperate with other producers. He also described the last oil price crash that started in 2014 and his discussions with Venezuela and Russia. He insisted that Saudi would not be making cuts unless other big nations were willing to join. He held a strong view that defending prices for the sake of high prices was not the right strategy, and the price paid by Saudi during the 1980s when it helped to restore balance on the global market was way too high to go for it again.

I find it interesting that after the resignation of Al-Naimi, his views were picked up in Russia, particularly by Rosneft, who often said that giving away market share to the US shale industry as a way to support prices was too dangerous and it was better to let prices determine the right level of production for each region/company.

The book covers many other interesting topics, including Aramco's strategy to develop local talent and technology, Saudi Arabia's strategy to reduce its energy intensity and develop renewable power, military conflicts in the region, including the Kuwait war and even some small-scale terror attacks that took place in 2006.

I would definitely recommend reading this book to anyone interested in understanding how the global oil industry works.

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