Since its full nationalisation in 1980, Saudi Aramco has worked very hard to ensure 87 per cent of its workforce is of local origin in 2012. This is an impressive achievement and proves that with the right investment, localisation need not be as difficult as some might deem it otherwise.

Now Aramco is looking to export its dedication to local expertise by rolling out two initiatives: the general engineering services plus (GES plus) and the in-kingdom engineering, procurement and production (IK-EPC) programmes.

Both are designed to increase local participation in Aramco’s megaprojects spread right across the hydrocarbons value-chain. Both have also been well supported by international contractors and engineering consultancies, who appreciate that investing in the kingdom’s human resources can be of mutual benefit.

Five engineering consultancies were awarded GES plus deals in 2011 with the US’ Foster Wheeler, Jacobs Engineering, KBR, Mustang Engineering and Canada’s SNC Lavalin signing up to the scheme with Aramco.

Now it is looking like Australia’s WorleyParsons is on the verge of replacing Foster Wheeler on the list. To secure a GES plus berth would be a coup for WorleyParsons, especially as market sources do not believe that Foster Wheeler has done anything to be removed. 

WorleyParsons has long been a partner for Aramco and already has hundreds of its engineers working on Aramco’s Maintain Potential Programme that supports the oil major’s offshore engineering requirements.

If Aramco does decide to grant the Australian engineering consultancy a GES plus contract it must have its reasons, but they will come as scant consolation to Foster Wheeler.