International engineering contractors have announced the frontrunners for three major construction deals on a planned $9bn-plus refinery at Yanbu on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast.

The joint venture partners behind the project, local state energy giant Saudi Aramco and the US’ ConocoPhillips, opened commercial bids, outlining cost proposals for the main construction packages on the project on 8 February.

According to sources close to the scheme, low bidders have emerged for three of the engineering, procurement and construction deals: the coker unit, the crude processing facility and gasoline processing unit.

A consortium of Japan’s Chiyoda and South Korea’s Samsung are the frontrunners to win the first deal, South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering & Construction the second and Spain’s Tecnicas Reunidas the third.

No information has yet emerged on the two other contracts under tender in the bid round, for a hydrocracker and storage tank facilities.

The project is likely to cost less than a similar development at Jubail on the Gulf coast, which came in with a $9.6bn price tag (MEED 9:2:10).