It seems that three months is a long time in Qatar’s booming construction sector, especially for the US’ Bechtel.

Bechtel is the world’s largest contractor and has expertise in everything from airports to rail systems and oil, gas and petrochemicals.

In April, the company was blamed by Qatar Airways’ Chairman Akbar al-Baker for causing delays to Doha’s Hamad International airport. Bechtel, the scheme’s main contractor, was accused of being complacent, a charge that was vigorously rejected by the company. 

Then in June, Bechtel was awarded both the project management consultancy (PMC) and front-end engineering and design (feed) for the proposed $7.4bn Al-Sejeel petrochemicals complex at Ras Laffan in the north of Qatar.

Al-Sejeel is the new name of the Qatar Petroleum/Qatar Petrochemical Company (Qapco) joint venture that will create one of the region’s largest mixed-feed crackers when completed in 2018.

Bechtel was awarded both the PMC and feed after a direct negotiation with QP and Qapco, and no tender was issued for either contract.

Direct negotiation is an unusual method of awarding large-scale contracts in the GCC. In March, the US’ Fluor was awarded the feed for a similar petrochemicals complex by QP and the UK/Dutch Shell Group after a similar direct negotiation. One reason for the awards is that QP wants to fast-track the schemes and ensure they are completed on schedule.

With so much projects activity, Doha is now in a situation where it has to make decisions quickly. It cannot afford to have $14bn-worth of schemes still ongoing in 2020-21 when resources will be required elsewhere.