So many large-scale projects have been tendered in the GCC recently that it seems that a new scheme costing billions of dollars is launched every week.

One project currently dominating the market at the moment is the $18bn petrochemicals joint venture of Saudi Aramco and the US’ Dow Chemical Company.

With more than 30 engineering, procurement and construction packages available, the job ranks as one of the largest process plant complexes ever planned in the Gulf and both local and international contractors are keen to win work.

The first package that will be awarded is likely to be the mixed-feed cracker and once again it is looking likely that a South Korean contractor is going to win, with Daelim Industrial and GS Engineering & Construction being the lowest bidders. 

Bidding on Saudi Aramco projects is not cheap – before a company can submit tenders it needs to prequalify first.

Prequalifying with Aramco involves forming partnerships with local contractors or employing a high number of Saudi nationals, all of which requires significant investment.

If South Koreans continue to dominate the market, international contractors will begin to question whether they should continue spending money on what is increasingly looking like a pointless exercise.

The Middle East contracting market is looking very overcrowded at the moment. If it became less so that may be a positive step.

On the other hand, it might be a negative step if contractors with a long track record of delivering projects decide to shift focus to other regions.

All of this has made the Aramco Dow packages even more interesting as it could be the catalyst for contractors to abandon hopes of winning work in the kingdom.