Two years ago, the US’ J Ray McDermott topped MEED’s oil and gas contractor’s survey with the most engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts awarded in 2007-2008. Last year, Fluor Corporation, also of the US, led the rankings, which surveyed projects awarded in 2008-2009.

But this year, the top spot has been taken by South Korea’s GS Engineering & Construction, with $4.9bn-worth of awards between April 2009 and March 2010. Compatriots SK Engineering & Construction and Samsung Engineering hold second and third positions in MEED’s ranking for 2009-2010.

The survey reflects the cementing of the Far East Asian state’s reputation as a high-quality competitive contractor and ends the dominance of the US contractors in the GCC.

South Korean contractors have been present in the region since the 1970s and have had a strong showing in previous MEED contractor surveys. But the past 12 months represent a watershed for the country.

In the wake of a severe economic recession, the region’s oil and gas firms have made price a priority in contractor selection, making South Korea’s low bids enticing. Seoul’s contractors have also reaped the benefits of a portfolio of completed projects in the Gulf to showcase their expertise. How Western contractors now respond will determine how long South Korea will dominate.