The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a permanent, intergovernmental Organization, created at the Baghdad Conference on September 10–14, 1960, by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The five Founding Members were later joined by ten other Members: Qatar (1961) – terminated its membership in January 2019; Indonesia (1962) – suspended its membership in January 2009, reactivated it in January 2016, but decided to suspend it again in November 2016; Libya (1962); United Arab Emirates (1967); Algeria (1969); Nigeria (1971); Ecuador (1973) – suspended its membership in December 1992, but reactivated it in October 2007; Angola (2007); Gabon (1975) – terminated its membership in January 1995 but re-joined in July 2016; Equatorial Guinea (2017); and Congo (2018). OPEC had its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in the first five years of its existence. This was moved to Vienna, Austria, on September 1, 1965.

OPEC’s objective: Is to co-ordinate and unify petroleum policies among Member Countries, in order to secure fair and stable prices for petroleum producers; an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations; and a fair return on capital to those investing in the industry.

Secretariat: The OPEC Secretariat is the executive organ of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Located in Vienna, it also functions as the Headquarters of the Organization, in accordance with the provisions of the OPEC Statute.

It is responsible for the implementation of all resolutions passed by the Conference and carries out all decisions made by the Board of Governors. It also conducts research, the findings of which constitute key inputs in decision-making .The Secretariat consists of the Secretary General, who is the Organization’s Chief Executive Officer, as well as such staff as may be required for the Organization’s operations. It further consists of the Office of the Secretary General, the Legal Office, the Research Division and the Support Services Division .The Research Division comprises Data Services, Petroleum Studies and Energy Studies departments. The Support Services Division includes Public Relations & Information, Finance & Human Resources and Administration & IT Services departments. The Secretariat was originally established in 1961 in Geneva, Switzerland. In April 1965, the 8th (Extraordinary) OPEC Conference approved a Host Agreement with the Government of Austria, effectively moving the Organization’s headquarters to the city of Vienna on September 1, 1965.

Secretary General: The Secretary General is the legally authorized representative of the Organization and Chief Executive of the Secretariat. In this capacity, he administers the affairs of the Organization in accordance with the directions of the Board of Governors. The Conference appoints the Secretary General for a period of three years, which may be renewed once for the same period. This appointment takes place upon nomination by Member Countries. The Secretary General is assisted in the discharge of his duties by a team of officers and staff including two Directors responsible for the Research Division and Support Services Division, six Heads of Department, the General Legal Counsel, Head of the Office of the Secretary General and the Internal Auditor who independently ascertains whether the on-going processes for controlling financial and administrative operations at the Secretariat are adequately designed and functioning in an effective manner.

Office of the Secretary General: The Office of the Secretary General is an executive office that provides full support to the Secretary General, enabling him to fulfil his duties. These include the overall management, planning, policy guidance and coordination of the activities of the Organization. It helps the Secretary General to maintain effective relations with Governments and their diplomatic representatives and with relevant international organizations. It also supports the protocol functions of the Secretariat and maintains close relations with relevant Austrian government and City of Vienna authorities, as well as with OPEC Member Countries

Legal Office: It has the responsibility of providing legal advice to the Secretary General and supervising the Secretariat’s legal and contractual affairs. It also evaluates legal issues of concern to the Organization. The Office, which reports to the Secretary General, is headed by a General Legal Counsel. 

Research Division: The Research Division is responsible for a continuous programme of research, designed to meet the requirements of the Organization and its Member Countries, with particular emphasis on energy and related matters. It consists of three Departments, namely, Data Services, Energy StudiesandPetroleum Studies.

It is headed by a Director, whose responsibility is to provide guidance for the Division in the overall framework of the Secretariat’s strategy and policy. In this regard, the Director plans, directs and coordinates the research activities of the Departments within the Division.

Support Services Division: The Division has the responsibility of providing the required infrastructure and services to the entire Secretariat in support of its programmes. To carry out this responsibility effectively, the Support Services Division operates through three Departments namely, Administration and IT Services, Finance and Human Resources and the Public Relations and Information.

It is headed by a Director, whose responsibility is to plan, direct and coordinate the work of the Division in the overall framework of the Secretariat’s strategy and policy. The Director also assists the Secretary General in specific coordinating functions within the Secretariat, particularly with regards to financial, human resources, public relations and administrative issues.


  • Tennet, J. C., “The Oil Scouts”, Oil City, PA, The Derrick Publishing Company, 1915. Reprinted 1986, Appalachian Oil Scouts.
  • Henry, J. T., “The Early and Later History of Petroleum”, New York, NY, 1873. Reprinted.