Former Saudi oil minister Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, a key player behind the 1973 oil embargo, died Tuesday aged 90 after a long career that laid the foundations of the kingdom's energy sector.

Yamani, dubbed by local papers as the "godfather of black gold", died in London, said state-owned El-Ekhbariya television, without giving the cause.

It said he will be buried in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, in western Saudi Arabia, where he was born.

In 1973, he was a key player in OPEC's decision to raise oil prices in protest at Israel's occupation of Arab land seized in 1967, sparking a world economic crisis.

Two years later, he was among oil ministers kidnapped by pro-Palestinian militants led by the infamous Carlos the Jackal at an OPEC meeting in Vienna.

Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani (2nd-L), oil minister of Saudi Arabia, attends negotiations in 1973 in Vienna between the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and representatives of Westerner petroleum firms Photo: AFP / -

Yamani, who served as oil minister from 1962 until 1986, was the first Saudi representative in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

He was dismissed in 1986 for undisclosed reasons, apparently over disagreement with the king at the time on oil output quotas.

He played a pivotal role in the nationalisation of Saudi Arabia's oil industry, led today by energy giant Aramco.

"He masterminded the negotiations through which Saudi Arabia purchased Aramco from its American owners -- a key move which assured no loss in revenue or disruption in the flow of oil," Ellen R. Wald, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Global Energy Center, tweeted on Tuesday.

He had a number of degrees from various institutions, including Cairo University, New York University and Harvard.