Saudi Aramco wants to move ahead quickly with a series of $1bn-plus projects to boost the kingdom’s gas production and processing capacity.

International engineering firms submitted prequalification applications for the three main engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) on Aramco’s $3bn-plus Wasit gas development programme on 19 May and handed applications for contracts on the $1bn-plus Shaybah natural gas liquids project on 25 May, say sources close to the project.

Under the first scheme, Aramco wants to produce 2.5 billion cubic feet a day (cf/d) of sulphur-rich gas from the offshore Arabiyah and Hasbah fields before transporting it to a central processing facility at Wasit.

The first EPC contract on this project covers the construction of the main gas processing facilities. These include four 1,200 tonne a day (t/d) sulphur recovery units to strip the sulphur out of the gas and a central gas processing plant which will be able to handle up to 1.7 billion cf/d of gas.

The second project covers the construction of seven offshore wellhead production platforms at the Hasbah field, which can produce up to 1.3 billion cf/d of gas from the field, tied in to central distribution facilities.

It includes the seven 12 inch flowlines linking the platforms with the central facility, a 145 kilometre, 36 inch pipeline linking the platform with Wasit, a 99 kilometre power cable linking the platform with other offshore facilities and a 62 kilometre mono ethylene glycol (MEG) pipeline linking the facilities with those at Arabiyah.

In turn, the second contract covers six wellhead platforms at the Arabiyah field, again tied in to central distribution facilities, capable of producing 1.2 billion cf/d. It also includes six 12 inch flowlines, a 150 kilometre pipeline linking the facilities with Wasit, a 150 kilometre MEG pipeline between Arabiyah and Wasit, and a 91 kilometre submarine power cable.

Aramco has told contractors bidding on the latter two schemes that they can submit individual bids for each contracts along with a combined price for both EPC deals.

The state energy firm plans to issue formal tender documents for all three projects on 15 June, and has set a tentative September deadline for technical and commercial bids. It wants to award the contracts by the end of December.

Aramco has already approached contractors over an estimated $500m site preparation deal for the Wasit gas project and sent out invitations to bid on this contract on 31 May. It has set a September deadline for technical and commercial proposals and plans to award the contract by October.

Under the Shaybah scheme, Aramco wants to build a plant to separate the equivalent of 228,000 barrels a day (b/d) of natural gas liquids from crude oil produced at the field. Contractors expect Aramco to stagger the EPC tender for this project, formally inviting bids in September or October and awarding the contract later in the first quarter of 2011.