State-owned Oman Refineries and Petrochemicals Company (ORPC) received bids on 28 June for a process design package for a new ethylbenzene/styrene monomer (EBSM) plant at its Sohar refinery.

The two bidders are Badger, part of US-based Shaw Group and Italy’s CBI Lummus, according to a source close to the deal.

The US’ Dow Chemical Company and Netherlands-based Lyondell-Basell declined to bid.

ORPC invited technology companies to submit proposals in September 2008 for the contract to supply proprietary technology to the plant and carry out basic engineering work (MEED 5:9:08).

The basic engineering package which is expected to last five months, was expected to be awarded in early 2009. The deal was only tendered more than a year later on 4 April 2010.

The deal was delayed after the project was reveiwed internally and subsequently had to be retendered, says the source.

Tenders for the estimated $200-250m engineering, procurement and construction of the EBSM are still some way off as the company focuses on the expansion of the Sohar Refinery. “The process of seeking technology licenses for the refinery expansion began this month”, says the source.

The 220,000 tonne a year EBSM unit will utilise gas feedstock from the 116,000 barrels a day (b/d) Sohar refinery. Although containing some 15-20 per cent of dilute ethylene, the gas is currently used as a fuel at the refinery. An alternative source of ethylene feedstock could be obtained from Oman Petrochemical Industries Company (OPIC), also in Sohar.

Benzene, the other feedstock required will be sourced from Aromatics Oman in Sohar.

According to a pre-feasibility study carried out by US consultants Jacobs in 2008, dilute ethylene, is the more attractive option than polymer grade ethylene from OPIC. The styrene-monomer produce will add value to the dilute ethylene which would otherwise be used as a fuel, offsetting the cost of the project, estimated at approximately $200m.

Styrene is predominantly used in the production of synthetic rubbers such as polystyrene, styrene butadiene rubber and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS).

ORPC was formed in 2007 following a royal decree merging Sohar Refinery Company with Oman Oil Refinery Company. Its two shareholders are the Finance Ministry holding a 75 per cent share and Oman Oil Company with the remaining 25 per cent.