The state-owned Egyptian Petrochemicals Holding Company (Echem) is to launch the bidding in February for the deal to build a major $2bn petrochemicals complex at Alexandria.

Mohamed Samy Abdelhady, vice-chairman for technology and business development at Echem, says it has asked contractors to submit technical bids outlining their engineering proposals by the end of February.

Echem will set a commercial bid deadline after it has held discussions with the bidding firms.

Front-end engineering and design (Feed) studies for the scheme were completed in September and tender documents were sent out to prospective contractors at the same time.

The plant will ‘crack’ ethane, a component of natural gas, breaking it down into the chemical ethylene, which will be used to produce the basic plastic poly-ethylene. The technology for the plant, which will produce 750,000-1 million tonnes a year (t/y) of ethylene, will be supplied by the US’ ABB Lummus, according to a senior executive at one technology firm which applied to take part in the scheme.

The development is part of a 20-year masterplan unveiled in 2002 to develop Egypt’s petrochemicals industry, which will involve investments of $10-20bn.

Despite being one of the biggest oil and gas producers in the world, the country’s petrochemicals production totalled just 600,000 t/y in 2002.