State-run energy giant Saudi Aramco and the US’ Dow Chemical Company will invite contractors to bid for the first construction contract on their $20bn-plus integrated oil and petrochemicals complex at Ras Tanura in January.

The $100m marine works package covers dredging, harbour works and site filling at Ras Tanura in the kingdom’s Eastern Province. The marine contract covers the dredging of a 12-kilometre-long approach channel, as well as construction of a breakwater and a container wharf.

According to an Al-Khobar-based executive close to the project, contractors held meetings with the US’ Foster Wheeler, the project manager for the scheme, in early November about the scope and timing of the contract.

“We were told we can expect an invitation to bid in January for the dredging package,” says the executive.

Foster Wheeler is also the project manager for the tank farm, utilities and offsite contracts.

Contractors expect Aramco and Dow to set a bid deadline before the end of March next year, with a contract award to follow in the second quarter of 2010. Work is expected to start on the project in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Companies preparing to bid for the package include Belgium’s Dredging International and Jan de Nul, Van Oord and Royal Boskalis Westminster of the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia’s Huta Group, and China Harbour Engineering Arabia Company.