The oil and gas market in the Middle East is not immune to global uncertainty, and its outlook is often determined by external factors. Following the COVID-19 pandemic era, when environmental health directives steered our narrative, 2022 was defined by geopolitical crisis and economic factors.
Of note, the Russia-Ukraine conflict triggered an increased risk to energy stability. This deficit created a catalyst and called for an increase in production, rallying a surge in oil prices. However, this peak did not occur without challenges and created the need for reevaluation of the energy security strategy.
This creates an exciting backdrop as we commence 2023. Geopolitical volatility and macroeconomic uncertainty remain, however, overall, there is a more positive outlook. Oil price predictions show a likelihood to moderate but should remain strong even as the market normalises.
OPEC is a significant contributor to the global energy basket, which means Gulf NOCs have a significant role to play on the global stage when navigating challenges. We have witnessed a call for an immediate increase in production output to replenish the shortfall. The Middle East can react fast and holds an advantage with its low production cost and performance of existing assets. This has a direct ripple effect on the Middle East job market.
There are plenty of recruitment opportunities within the OPEX projects, and NES Fircroft has produced in the past year a 20% increase in contractor hires across the region in onshore and offshore production, oilfield services, and field automation mid-downstream processing assets.
Additionally, from an industry life cycle perspective, new CAPEX spending across the Middle East market is hugely exciting and will create more job opportunities. A return boom was expected following the pandemic, so we should see CAPEX development accelerated to capture the buoyant market, especially the gas CAPEX projects.
Engineering jobs in Saudi Arabia, UAE
Job creation will arise from the planned multi-billion-dollar CAPEX expenditure across both Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Both ADNOC and Aramco are also entering international partnerships, which means local projects will produce job creation for partners in Europe, Asia, and the US. Additionally, recruitment opportunities in new sub-sectors will continue to drive portfolio diversification.
Gas and gas-derived products are a major growth market for ADNOC and we expect a huge upside in recruitment activity in mega-scale gas projects such as Hail and Ghasha. The upstream production market is active. ADNOC awarded a $4 billion drilling framework to international vendors to support a lower-carbon-intensive production capacity. Iconic upstream projects, such as UZ750 and the upcoming UZ1000, continue to expand year after year producing an ongoing demand for talent and technical expertise.
Petrochemicals will also play a pivotal role in the diversification plans. Abu Dhabi has launched TA’ZIZ to enhance the UAE’s position as a regional hub for chemical production and specialty chemical manufacturing. This initiative specifically welcomes international investment and encourages new business in the industrial chemicals zones.
Job creation will arise from the planned multi-billion-dollar CAPEX expenditure across both Saudi Arabia and the UAE.Michael Lee, regional business development manager NES Fircroft
Renewable energy jobs
Renewable Energy is a high priority across the Middle East. The region plays a critical role in the global shift towards alternative energy. With aggressive investment budgets set firm within each of the national energy strategies, development in clean energy production is set in motion.
The UAE leads the way in the region to date, with early investment in several major projects, particularly in solar energy. Additionally, Saudi, Jordan, Bahrain, and Egypt all showcased inspiring renewable energy projects.
NES Fircroft has proudly been part of this journey from the early phases. We have been integral to several iconic renewable projects by providing international technical expertise through design, construction, and commissioning. Renewable energy jobs have been predominately created in the UAE, followed by Saudi Arabia.
The rest of the Middle East is now gathering pace in their need for talent. Manpower demand in the sector has traditionally been construction-focused, however with the energy transition in full swing and projects now feeding into the grid, we’re seeing more full lifecycle positions such as FEED, procurement, engineering, operations, and maintenance as well as research and development. Hydrogen could quickly become the region’s leading renewable subsector with a number of projects being planned, which will offer excellent job opportunities, especially for those with transferable skills.
Top skills to start a career
The oil and gas sector is integral to the transition toward a reduced carbon footprint. The industry has imperative strategic initiatives to lower emissions, which are increasing opportunities in carbon capture technology and digitalisation.
Localisation is a priority in the Middle East and is integrated into employment policies. With the vast number of NOCs investing in the clean energy vision, the government and vendor chain will offer huge opportunities for local job creation. More flexibility should be shown in the hiring policies, and a willingness from the employers to train local nationals and expatriates. Those looking to transition into renewable energy must focus on transferable skills and how they can adapt them to the role in question.
For example, those with mechanical engineering experience on offshore jackets in the oil and gas industry could adapt their skills to work within the offshore wind industry, at first focusing on the jackets portion of a project and over time amending their skillsets to support the wider offshore wind sector.
The top skill required to transition is adaptability, a willingness to learn a new industry, and the ability to communicate work experience and how it can be adapted to a new industry.
Advice for job seekers in the oil and gas sector
Firstly, I would advise job seekers to network and meet with peers about where the industry is and more importantly, where it’s heading. The Middle East has a very friendly and open approach to its networking events. Being aware of where the market will move gives job seekers time to adapt.
Secondly, those who are not already in the industry, do not be daunted by the oil and gas industry. Do not view it as a one-dimensional industry that is biased toward engineering professionals. The industry as a whole has so many interesting facets. Certainly, for those working in technical engineering disciplines, the industry provides a progressive pathway to management and supports specialism, but there is also a vast range of non-engineering-related departments, including technology, financial, legal, HSE, communications, and HR. Irrespective of skillset, education, and background, the sector has a career path for all.
Finally, challenge yourself to break the narrative and broaden your horizons when considering your next career move. New projects, new companies, and employment opportunities are appearing globally, often in locations you may not have considered previously. So, take advantage of overseas project relocations.