Chinese firms have pulled off a quiet revolution in the Middle East’s hydrocarbon sector, racking up portfolios that rival those of the largest IOCs. Chief among them is state-giant CNPC which could yet overtake all of its rival producers.

Any sizeable oil and gas contract awards in the Gulf are now near-guaranteed to have Chinese firms competing vehemently to secure assets, and as often as not doing so successfully. As a case in point, March and April saw high profile awards in Abu...