Bechtel expects to receive the notice to proceed in August 2009 and the first hot metal is expected in December 2011. Early works packages will proceed before the notice to proceed is issued.

The project involves the construction of a 750,000-tonnes-a-year (t/y) smelter with two potlines, carbon plant, cast house and support facilities.

The smelter is being developed by Alumco, which is a joint venture of Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Maaden) and the UK/Canadian Rio Tinto Alcan (MEED 21:7:08).

The complex on the Gulf coast was originally due to be developed by Maaden in partnership with Canadian aluminium giant Alcan.

But Alcan was taken over in 2007 by the UK’s Rio Tinto, which has yet to sign a final partnership agreement, thereby holding up the contract awards.

Bechtel, Canada’s SNC Lavalin and US’ Fluor Corporation were competing for the contract to build the 1.4 million-t/y alumina refinery that will supply the smelter with raw material.

Negotiations are also under way for the captive power plant. The bidders for the lump-sum engineering, procurement and construction contract are China’s Harbin Power Engineering Company and South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries. An award is due by October.