Saudi Aramco has selected its preferred bidders for the main construction contracts on the company’s $10bn joint venture new refinery project at Yanbu on the kingdom’s Red Sea Coast after a round of price discussions.

Senior Aramco executives met during the week ended 25 March to discuss the 400,000 barrel a day export refinery project and selected six international engineering contractors for the deals, a source close to the company tells MEED.

Aramco and its joint venture partner on the scheme, the US’ ConocoPhillips, started cost talks with contractors over their prices for the contracts in early March after taking a month to review proposals submitted in February (MEED 9:3:2010).

MEED reported the frontrunners for the deals in March, but sources close to the bidding process say that a new list of preferred bidders has now emerged after the cost talks.

Spain’s Tecnicas Reunidas has been selected to build the main coker unit at the refinery. The company was originally thought to be the second-lowest bidder, after a consortium of Japan’s Chiyoda and South Korea’s Samsung Engineering.

South Korean firms have emerged as the favourites to win the crude distillation unit, gasoline processing facilities, and hydrocracker at the plant. SK Engineering & Construction is the favourite for the crude distillation unit, Daelim Corporation for the gasoline unit, and GS Engineering & Construction for the hydrocracker.

Aramco is also understood to have selected contractors for two ‘special packages’ on the plant.

Egypt’s Engineering for the Petroleum & Process Industries (Enppi) is the firm most likely to build the main storage facilities at the refinery, while Indian/local Dayim Punj Lloyd is out front for a deal to build the offsite pipelines at the plant.

Contractors believe Aramco is ready to award the deals, but say that ConocoPhillips is holding up the tendering process by waiting until May to make a final investment decision on the scheme. The US energy firm is also considering the feasibility of a $10bn joint venture sour gas scheme in Abu Dhabi (MEED 30:3:10).