“Most contractors 55+ would rather retire than work for a substantial pay decrease, leaving a gap, which will in turn push rates up”
The political instability felt across much of the Middle East has fortunately not affected all producing countries. What is noticeable is an increasing number of candidates coming from Libya and Bahrain into safer zones in Qatar and the UAE. With oil prices on average higher than in 2010, the region is as attractive as ever given it’s relatively low cost of development and operation and massive supply, ample supply routes and supporting infrastructure. For contractors, the Middle East continues to boast some of the longest-duration contracts on offer worldwide alongside decent rates and a comfortable standard of living.
Iraq has started a multi-billion dollar upgrading of its oil export pipelines, a vital element in its plans to boost production. The modernisation of Iraq’s dilapidated energy infrastructure destroyed or rendered useless by years of conflict, sanctions and neglect, is essential to boosting production and exports. Safety and security remain the biggest problem in Iraq and further measures need addressing by the coalition government. The recent surges of bloodshed cast doubts on their ability to control this. Despite the problems Iraq is moving ahead with plans that include a new network of pipelines through neighboring countries. In 2010, Iraq and Turkey signed an agreement to expand the operation of the twin pipelines that carry circa 400,000 barrels of oil a day from the Kirkuk oilfields in northern Iraq to Turkey.
The completion of megaprojects like Shell’s Pearl Gas-To-Liquids plant has resulted in the demobilisation of tens of thousands of workers recently, mainly construction personnel, though some must remain on-hand for maintenance related work.
Senior LNG expertise without contracts are being snapped up by Rasgas and Qatargas in support of future LNG expansion projects, and any remaining candidates finding immediate employment in Asia Pacific or Australia. A massive petrochemical refinery project announced by Shell is expected to revitalise employment statistics in Qatar, though for the moment much of the design work is being handled elsewhere and major staff increases are not expected until eight to twelve months from now.
The demobilisation of significant numbers of expats in LNG and construction is welcome news for expertise hungry areas like Australia and Asia Pacific. Of the demographic outbound from Qatar, a good number are native Australians returning home where similar major project work has opened up during their time away. In spite of a universal Qatarisation program for major employers, the quotas are impossible to fill, so almost all the work is being done by expats.
Interest in reinvesting in Dubai has increased in light of political unrest elsewhere in the region, in spite of a debt load in excess of some 140% of GDP, Dubai is by contrast a relatively safe haven for international investment. It has also remained well insulated against violence and unrest felt across much of the Middle East and North Africa. An influx of candidates released from recently completed projects in Qatar (as well as a small number seeking safer contracts outside of Saudi Arabia or Bahrain) has been noticed, however key talent is being placed almost immediately into other roles elsewhere without ever coming to market.
Even in a nation as wealthy as this, social spending and an acute sensitivity to the general happiness of its population has spurned a commitment of nearly $2 billion for housing loans to shore up shortages felt by Emeratis. Pledges for increased infrastructure spending have also been made recently. These domestic projects will certainly increase demand for construction and project management personnel, though likely not to the detriment of the energy sector. FEED, Project Management, and a significant rise in Piping, Pipeline and Process Engineers are currently most required.
Your Expectations as a Region