CONTRACTORS: Ruling the roost

16 June 2006
The year ending in June will go down as one of the most ambitious in recent history of the Gulf petrochemical sector. In just 12 months, more than $17,500 million worth of engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts were signed off, the vast majority of them in Saudi Arabia, according to data compiled by MEED Projects and MEED.

Italy's Tecnimont takes the title for having won the most work over the period. The Milan-based polyolefin contractor specialist has made itself a force to be reckoned with, winning three major contracts in Saudi Arabia, including the $1,000 million-plus Rabigh Refining & Petrochemical Company (Petro-Rabigh) downstream package. It also took the $1,240 million aromatics plant EPC contract in Kuwait and won two major contracts in Iran. If the Iranian deals were included in the table, the company would have been further in front.

Much of Tecnimont's success has come from the company's focus on the Middle East as its main market, and from its strong relationship with Europe's Basell, which has licensed its technology for many of the region's polyethylene units. The firm has also gained a boost from its recent acquisition by the Maire Group, which has the financial and industrial weight of the giant Turin-based Fiat conglomerate behind it.

'Last year's success is the result of our strategy of focusing and consolidating on this sector,' says Paolo Bigi, Tecnimont's commercial director. 'Customers appreciate our reliability and competitiveness.

Looking ahead, the company is aiming to build on its already considerable workload. 'There are significant challenges in the MENA region in the execution of all projects, caused by an unprecedented concentration of new investments,' says Bigi. 'There will also be a number of new large projects of high interest. We are prepared to face those challenges and eager to compete, on a selective basis, for the new projects.'

On the back of its first place in the region's oil and gas sector, Technip takes second place in the list. The Paris-based contracting giant won three EPC contracts totalling $2,500 million in 2005/06 to add to the $5,000 million-plus-worth of contracts it was awarded last year in the hydrocarbons field. The firm cemented itself as the pre-eminent cracker contractor, winning three of the five ethylene crackers awarded in the period.

The fact that each of the three contracts were awarded in different countries Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia also demonstrates Technip's reach and resource capability. And it remains the only major EPC contractor with the appetite and capability to carry out both world-scale petrochemical and oil and gas projects in the region.

Completing the top four positions are Germany's Linde and the US' Shaw Stone & Webster. Both contractors won one cracker job each, the former with South Korea's Samsung Engineering Company for the Industrialisation & Sahara Company for Olefins (ISCO) complex, the latter for the Eastern Petrochemical Company (Sharq) expansion.

Stone & Webster's performance has been particularly impressive. Since it was freed from its tie-up to BP technology in early 2005, it has taken rapid strides forward, winning two Yanbu National Petrochemical Company (YanSab) process unit packages and The Kuwait Styrene Company (TKSC) styrene facility job in addition to the Sharq cracker.

Sharq's 700,000-tonne-a-year (t/y) ethylene glycol (EG) unit, one of the world's largest, helped push Samsung to fifth on the list. It also won the Advanced Polypropylene Company (APPC) propane dehydrogenation (PDH)/polypropylene (PP) plant package at Jubail.

US engineering heavyweights Fluor Corporation and Foster Wheeler confirmed their return to the EPC market, winning three substantial offsites and utilities contracts between them, covering the YanSab, Sharq and Petro-Rabigh co

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