Energy giant Saudi Aramco and the UK/Dutch Shell Group have invited prequalified contractors to bid for a deal to build a sulphur-treating unit at their Jubail refinery.

The two companies have approached contractors to bid for the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) deal through their joint venture Saudi Aramco Shell Refinery Company (Sasref) which operates the 305,000 barrel-a-day (b/d) refinery.

A executive based in Al-Khobar, who is bidding for the deal, says the deadline for technical bids is 31 October and for commercial bids is 15 November.

“We have been told that an award will then be made by January 2010, but I expect this to slip until February 2010,” says the executive.

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

The Al-Khobar-based executive expects three Japanese contractors, Toyo Engineering Corporation, JGC Corporation and Chiyoda Corporation, will bid for the job.

Several companies that originally prequalified for the deal, such as South Korea’s Samsung Engineering and the US’ CBI Lummus, will not file bids, says the executive.

The Sasref EPC tender follows Saudi Aramco Mobil Refinery Company’s (Samref) decision 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 (MEED 18:1:09).

Aramco will 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 that come into force in 2013 (MEED 28:3:08).