Spending on industrial projects in the GCC continues to centre on Saudi Arabia in 2011. The award of the aluminium smelter contract by the joint venture of the Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Maaden) and the US’ Alcoa led to a spike in contract award volumes in the third quarter.

In the third quarter of 2011, the Maaden-Alcoa joint venture awarded two contracts worth $2,5 bn, according to MEED Projects. Turkey’s Five Solios and the local Mohammed al-Mojil Group won the contract to build the carbon area and the reduction area for the smelter in Ras al-Khair. The smelter, initially based on two AP 36 potlines, will be designed to accommodate a potential expansion of four additional lines that could increase annual production to more than 2 million tonnes.

UAE-based Emirates Aluminium (Emal) was also active in the third quarter, awarding contracts worth an estimated $400m for the phase two expansion of its smelter Taweelah in Abu Dhabi.

Combined, the drive to expand aluminium production capacity in Saudi Arabia and the UAE pushed up spending on construction contracts to almost $3bn, a three-fold increase from the previous quarter.

In the second quarter, contract awards totalled just more than $1bn. Again, more than half of awards were made by the Maaden-Alcoa joint venture. The largest single tender came from the Saudi Acrylic Polymer Company, who awarded US-based Fluor a $373m contract to build a super absorbent polymer plant in Jubail.

Although the remaining four GCC countries did not award contracts in the third quarter, Oman’s petrochemical sector was the biggest contributor to award volumes a year earlier. Oman’s Octal Petrochemicals is expanding its polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resin production facility in the sultanate. The $1bn expansion will make it the largest polyester manufacturer in the Middle East. Germany’s Uhde Inventa-Fischer is undertaking the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) work for the plant.

In 2012, industrial spending is expected to grow. Maaden and Alcoa are looking to award the EPC contract for the alumina refinery in Ras al-Khair. The tender, valued at around $2bn, will be awarded in the first quarter of 2012. But the Saudi petrochemicals sector will also be active, with the Petro Rabigh phase 2 expansion and Saudi Arabia Basic Industries Corporation’s (Sabic) elastomer tender to be awarded by the end of first quarter of 2012. In addition, Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Steel International also plans to award the contract to develop the phase three expansion of its Mussafah plant next year.