The reasons for Sonatrach's surprising change of CEO

Amine Mazouzi, former CEO of Sonatrach

On 20 March explosive news broke about Sonatrach — the Algerian state-owned oil company — that Amine Mazouzi had been dismissed as Sonatrach CEO and had been replaced by 66-year-old Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour.

The move came completely out of the blue and without any explanation. What is even more surprising is that the announcement was made two days after the publication of Sonatrach’s financial results for the first two months of the year.

Sonatrach posted strong results, with the balance sheet characterised by marked improvements, notably in oil and gas production. The highlight was an additional 110,000 b/d of production capacity, which is now available but is not being produced because of OPEC’s November 2016 agreement. Sonatrach is also increasing its primary production of hydrocarbons to 32.6 million tonnes of oil equivalent (toe), which is 102% of its target, and a 4% increase compared to the same period of 2016.

The reasons for Sonatrach's surprising change of CEO - Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour

Sonatrach’s new CEO, Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour

Similarly, according to Sonatrach’s results and press reports, an additional 4 billion cubic metres (bcm) a year of gas is available and will be ready for export when the GR6 pipeline from Rhoud Nous to Hassi R’mel is completed in May. Sonatrach also reported a total of 17.9 million toe in exports – 117% of its February 2017 target and an increase of 7% compared to February 2016. Similarly, according to preliminary figures cited in the report, gas production reached 22.4 bcm, 103% of target and a 6% increase compared to the end of February 2016.

Other Sonatrach data — such as crude oil production and the volume of gas carried via the northern grid — all showed similar positive increases. LNG production was down 12% but this was largely explained by stoppages for maintenance work. In short, such results would seem to warrant a commendation for Mazouzi rather than dismissal.

Amine Mazouzi’s dismissal was clearly a political decision and the government will now have to try and come up with some technical reasons for getting rid of him. So far, we are unaware that it has done so. However the online Tout sur l’Algérie (TSA) news service speculated that the energy ministry and other government departments would probably try and compile a list of his failures. In TSA’s opinion, such a list could consist of:  [article continues]