The four prequalifiers for the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract are Air Liquideof France, the US’ Air Products & Chemicals, Chicago Bridge & Iron Company, also of the US, and Germany’s Linde. Commercial bids are expected to be submitted in early March, allowing for an award by April.

The contract involves only the construction of the large-scale helium plant. The upstream extraction work will be handled separately by contractors already working on RasGas and Qatargas projects. The project is being managed by RasGas. The plant itself will be owned by a new company to be formed between RasGas and Qatargas.

Once the plant is commissioned, Qatar will join a select band of helium producers, which currently includes Algeria, Russia and the US.