Aramco negotiates with gas plants PPP bidders

18 July 2023
Saudi Aramco has been in negotiations with the two consortiums that submitted proposals in late April for this programme to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions from its key gas plants

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Saudi Aramco is negotiating with two consortiums of bidders competing for one of the first public-private partnership (PPP) deals in its main oil and gas business.

The project involves modifying and upgrading sulphur recovery units (SRUs) at Aramco's gas processing plants located in the kingdom's Eastern Province.

Two consortiums submitted proposals by the deadline of 30 April for the scheme, which involves building tail-gas treatment (TGT) facilities at seven gas processing plants in the kingdom:

  • Vision Invest (Saudi Arabia) / Larsen & Toubro Energy Hydrocarbon (India)
  • Lamar Holding (Saudi Arabia) / Hyundai Engineering (South Korea) / Korea Overseas Infrastructure & Urban Development Corporation (South Korea) / Enerflex (Canada) / Brookfield (Canada) / Export-Import Bank of China (China)

The facilities are to be developed on a build, own and operate (BOO) or build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) basis. This will make it one of Aramco’s first PPP projects in its main oil and gas business, if not the first.

Under the desulphurisation programme, Aramco expects third-party investors to build large downstream TGT units to collect and process tail gas discharged from SRUs at seven identified gas plants, MEED reported in December 2021.

Based on Aramco's initial evaluation of proposals, the consortium led by Lamar Holding pulled ahead in the race to win the contract to become the sole developer of the desulphurisation facilities, sources told MEED.

The Lamar-led consortium has submitted “considerably lower prices” than the other group being headed by Vision Invest, for both Zone I and II gas plants, according to sources.

“Lamar is the lowest bidder for both packages [Zones I and II], but Aramco is still in negotiations with the other consortium,” one source said.

“It remains to be seen whether one consortium wins both packages or Aramco chooses to divide them between the two groups,” another source said.

Aramco issued expressions of interest (EoI) for the scheme on 18 October 2021 and received EoI documents on 30 November that year. The Saudi energy giant then issued the main tender for the PPP project in May last year, as MEED reported.

Bidders were initially required to submit proposals by 30 September last year. The proposal submission deadline was moved to 15 December, then to 15 March this year, and again extended it to 31 March. Bids were eventually submitted on 30 April.

SO2 reduction campaign

The Aramco programme is in line with the regulations for emissions to air from stationary sources set out by Saudi Arabia’s Environment, Water & Agriculture Ministry. These stipulate that sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions from stationary sources must not exceed 250 parts per million volume (dry and 0 per cent oxygen basis). They must also comply with the SO2 ambient emission limits or ground-level SO2 concentration.

The rollout of the desulphurisation scheme stems from Aramco’s goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and is part of its environmental, social and governance initiatives, sources previously said.

Seven gas plants in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province have been identified from which tail gas needs to be treated for up to 99.9 per cent SO2 removal:

  • Berri
  • Haradh
  • Hawiyah
  • Khursaniyah
  • Shedgum
  • Uthmaniyah
  • Wasit

The scope of the scheme has been split into two packages, one source said. The first package covers gas plants in Aramco’s Zone 1 – Berri, Khursaniyah and Wasit – while the second package relates to units in Zone 2 – Haradh, Hawiyah, Shedgum and Uthmaniyah.

Along with fully financing the project, the developer will need to adopt one of the following commercial desulphurisation technologies approved by Aramco for the scheme:

  • TGT reduction absorption
  • Ammonia-based desulphurisation
  • Dry sorbent injection
  • Flue gas desulphurisation using gypsum

According to Aramco, the project will cover “the end-to-end application of the approved technologies, including but not limited to required plot space, utilities, market analysis and logistics of feedstock and byproduct, contractual arrangements, risks associated with each technology related to safety, process reliability and SO2 emissions compliance on a continuous basis”.

Aramco expects the common TGT facility to be operational by 2027.

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