The $18bn Saudi Aramco petrochemicals joint venture with the US’ Dow Chemical at Jubail has received bids for the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of its mixed feed cracker package.

The bids have been submitted earlier than most of the other packages due to the highly technical nature of the bids. It is also understood that a number of packages are being submitted early in order for the Aramco Dow project to formulate total costs and make a final investment decision.

“Bids are now in for the cracker package,” a source familiar with the project says. “Most of the companies bidding are also bidding on other packages, but they are still not expected to be submitted until May or early June.”

The exact number of bidders is not known, but is expected to include:

  • Daelim (South Korea)
  • JGC Corporation (Japan)
  • Saipem (Italy)
  • Samsung Engineering (South Korea)
  • Technip (France)
  • Tecnicas Reunidas (Spain)

The type of cracker that will be used at Aramco Dow has been the source of much speculation. Now it is clear a mixed-feed cracker using ethane and naptha will be built that will produce 1.2 million tonnes a year (t/y) of ethylene and 400,000-t/y of propylene.

The plant is also expected to produce a variety of specialty chemicals as part of the Saudi Arabian plan to move its petrochemicals downstream. These will most likely include metallocene-based elastomers, glycol ethers, solution polyethylene, methyl/polymethyl methacrylate (MMA/PMMA), nylon, and ethylene propylene rubber (MEED 10:12:10).

The Aramco Dow project has been identified as 2011’s largest project and as such many contractors are expected to bid aggressively.

There are a number of packages currently being tendered including the EPC contract for the $1bn-plus tank farm as well as the engineering, procurement, construction and management contract for the utilities and offsites package (MEED 15:4:11).

A final investment decision is yet to be made regarding the Aramco Dow project and sources have indicated that this will be made later in 2011.