State-run energy firm Saudi Aramco and the UK/Dutch Shell Group are considering bids from five contractors for the deal to build a sulphur-treating unit at their Jubail refinery.

Three Japanese contractors, Toyo Engineering Corporation, JGC Corporation and Chiyoda Corporation, submitted bids on 15 November for the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) deal, along with Italy’s Saipem and South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering & Construction.

Aramco and Shell own the Saudi Aramco Shell Refinery Company (Sasref) joint venture, which operates the 305,000-barrel-a-day refinery.

An executive based in Al-Khobar, who is bidding for the deal, says an award will be made in January.

The winning contractor will build the unit which removes sulphur compounds so that the oil processed by the refinery can meet emissions regulations in the US, Sasref’s main export market.

The Sasref EPC tender follows a decision by Saudi Aramco Mobil Refinery Company (Samref) in April to award a $400m contract to Australia’s WorleyParsons to cut the sulphur content of the gasoline produced at its 400,000-b/d facility.

Aramco will also open ultra-low sulphur diesel facilities at its Riyadh and Jeddah refineries by 2012.

Aramco embarked on the multi-billion-dollar sulphur-reduction scheme in 2008 to meet US environmental regulations on petrol imports, to be enforced from 2013.