GS undercut bids from its compatriot SK Engineering & Construction and Spain’s TR, the only other competitors when prices were submitted in early November (MEED 9:11:07).

With technical evaluation complete, GS is in line for the lump-sum engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract. The client is expected to make a decision and award the deal early next year.

The scheme covers the construction of a 37,000-barrel-a-day (b/d) hydrocracker and a 42,000-b/d sulphur hydrocracker unit, along with the revamping of the existing gas oil hydrotreater at the Ruwais refinery to produce sulphur-free gas oil.

An award of the contract to GS would be another coup for Korean contractors in the Gulf, which have been steadily winning more work in the region’s EPC sector.

Competitive pricing and a perceived willingness to take on more risk than European, Japanese and US contractors have made Korean firms more attractive to clients, especially during a time when development costs are soaring and the number of contractors willing to bid is falling.

Over the past 18 months, GS has won more than $2bn worth of work in Oman to build the Salalah methanol and Sohar aromatics projects.

Kuwait’s hydrocarbons sector is dominated by South Korean contractors and it has been more than two years since a non-South Korean company won a major EPC contract in the state.

In the UAE and Saudi Arabia, South Korean firms have yet to make major inroads, although this too is changing.

Samsung Engineering Company recently won a $430m contract to build a diesel hydro-treater unit for Saudi Aramco at Ras Tanura, while Korean contractors are among the companies invited to bid for the Manifa field development and the Yanbu and Jubail export refineries.

There has been some resistance to this trend, however. South Korean firms did try to reach the shortlist for the Sahil, Asab and Shah (Sas) full-field development, but were rebuffed by the client, Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Operations (Adco).

In other areas, there is also a resistance to giving South Korean contractors a foothold in the market.

“Many so-called Western contractors are telling clients they will abandon markets if South Koreans are allowed in because they are so much more competitive,” says one European international contractor.

“This makes many clients understandably wary, but ultimately it is a battle the Western firms will not be able to win in the current sellers’ market.”