Within moments of announcing Sherif Ismail, the previous minister of petroleum, as the head of the new government, all attention shifted towards the question of who would become the next oil minister in Egypt. Rumors and speculation echoed through the business scene, after all, the petroleum ministry is the center of Egypt’s beehive, every decision made by the ministry, affects factories, electricity, energy subsidies, investment, foreign currency reserves—and by extension—the wellbeing of the entire Egyptian economy.
On the 19th of September, H.E Eng. Tarek El-Molla was sworn in as the new Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources. The father of three is known to be an industry favorite for his role in improving the investment climate for foreign oil companies; as well as easing the country’s energy crisis and securing sufficient fuel supplies for the local market.
Born in 1962, El-Molla graduated with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering from Cairo University in 1986; a few months later, in January of 1987, he began a 24-year long career at Chevron, where his core functions revolved around operations, planning, and sales. El-Molla achieved the role of Sales Director and Board Member by 1998, advancing to become Director for Marketing in 2008, and by early 2010 he moved to South Africa to become Chevron’s Regional Director for Central and South Africa.
On January of 2011, El-Molla was asked to join the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) as the Vice-Chairman for Foreign Trade, and by August of the same year was appointed Vice-Chairman for Internal Trade, in addition to his orignial role as Vice-Chairman for Foreign Trade. By March of 2013 El-Molla as assigned the additional role of Vice-Chairman for Operations, a move that was considered a clear sign of his success in managing the EGPC affairs and a harbinger of his next role, announced in August of the same year, when El-Molla was chosen as the new head of EGPC.
El-Molla was assigned the role of Chairman of the EGPC in response to a significant 48-hour diesel crisis that took place in August 2013. While other lesser crises followed, the EGPC remained on top of them, importing sufficient petroleum derivatives from neighboring countries and pumping the much-needed supply to the local market.
A significant step forward the EGPC accomplished during the era of El-Molla was securing BP’s $12b deal, Egypt’s largest foreign direct investment to date. Exploration activities offshore the Mediterranean are extremely costly, making a regular production sharing agreement (PSA) risky for international oil companies (IOCs). El-Molla amended the terms of the agreement to insure the reservoir is fully developed, securing Egypt a 25% boost in gas production.
El-Molla also played a significant role in reducing the debt owed to IOCs from $6.3b to $2.9b, and thus improving conditions for operating contractors. A journey he will now continue, fulfilling his predecessor’s promise to fully repay all dues by the end of 2016.
El-Molla began his era in the petroleum ministry on a positive note, promising to connect 2.1m households to the national grid during the current fiscal year as part of the government’s efforts to improve standards of living. He also stated in his first speech as petroleum minister that the main mission for the ministry in the coming period is to increase reserves and production rates of crude oil and natural gas by continuing to intensify exploration activities through offering international bid rounds, fostering new agreements, and asking foreign partners to accelerate their ongoing exploration programs.