A source close to the project tells MEED that the firms prequalified to bid for engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contracts will now be announced on 23 February rather than the original date of 16 February.

“There was a small revision to one of the forms,” the source says, adding that new criteria have been set for quality management systems, and that Aramco had extended the deadlines to allow bidding firms to adjust their applications accordingly.

The source tells MEED that 30-40 companies will be prequalified from a total of more than 50 applicants, with a particularly strong showing expected from Chinese and South Korean firms.

Once prequalified, the firms will bid for a total of five packages.

The packages cover a crude and vacuum distillation unit; a diesel hydrotreater and continuous catalyst regeneration facility; a sulphur recovery unit, sour water stripper and flare system; utilities, offsite and handling facilities; and tank farms.

Contractors in the region say that they now believe that the project will go ahead along with an associated integrated petrochemical complex being developed by Aramco in a joint venture with the US’ Dow Chemical at the same site, with the total value of the two projects expected to be in excess of $22bn.

Doubts had been raised over financing for the projects in early January, when contractors said that they had been approached to discuss terms which would cut the cost to the clients (MEED 2:1:09).

Aramco has recently been targeting cost cuts on a number of projects, including its Karan gas development and the company’s joint venture refinery with France’s Total at Jubail.