The Kuwaiti multinational Alghanim International is the lowest bidder for the first contract for Kuwait Environment Public Authority’s (Kepa) $2.9bn Kuwait Environmental Remediation Project (KERP) to clean up polluted soil and lakes of crude oil in north Kuwait.

It has submitted the lowest bid to excavate, transport and dump soil that was contaminated by oil spills, fires and ordinance during the First Gulf War.

The complete list of bidders is:

  • Alghanim International (Kuwait) – KD28,363,164 ($101m)
  • Mushrif Trading and Contracting (Kuwait) – KD29,798,557 ($106m)
  • Alamiah Building Company (Kuwait)-  KD35,377,000 ($125m)
  • First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting (Kuwait) – KD47,474,074 ($168m)
  • Kuwait Systems (Kuwait) – KD56,003,536 ($199m)
  • KCC Engineering & Contracting (Kuwait) – KD57,580,384 ($204m)
  • Galfar Engineering and Contracting (Oman) – KD59,521,857 ($211m)
  • Combined Group Contracting (Kuwait) – KD71,574,000 ($253m)

Sources close to the project, say the contract should be awarded in the next three months.

A total of 24 local and international firms prequalified to bid for the scheme, which covers the excavation and transportation of soil contaminated with high levels of crude oil to a 1.7-million-cubic-metre landfill site. It also includes site surveys, geotechnical and environmental studies and the screening of oil-contaminated soil for unexploded ordnance.

The scope does not include the construction of landfill facilities or the remediation of the less contaminated soil, well-head pits or marine coastal trenches.

As the first contract to excavate contaminated soil from the north of Kuwait this contract targets priority areas above aquifers that the Kuwaiti government fears could be contaminated by the surface oil.

The extensive pollution in Iraq’s north was caused in the final stages of the First Gulf War as Iraq’s retreating army torched over 600 of Kuwait’s oil wells. The fires burned for ten months before being extinguished, leaving behind a spill of around 22.5 million barrels of oil and damaging an area of 384 square kilometres.

Initially Kuwait planned to bury soil that has high levels of contamination, above 18 per cent oil, in 16 giant landfills. Surveys have found that there is around 26 million cubic metres of this sludge that needs to be cleared.

Due to fears that these large toxic landfills would cause problems for future generations Kuwait is now running bioremediation studies to find out whether using enzymes to break down the oil is financially viable, something that would dramatically reduce the number of landfills needed.