Bidders for the contract are understood to include Bechtel of the US and a consortium of Japan’s JGC Corporation and the US’ Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR). An award is expected by November.

The landmark project will be carried out under a 30-year production and development contract, with construction to be complete after 54 months. The integrated project will involve the exploration, production, liquefaction and marketing of LNG from Gassi Touil, the country’s largest gas deposit. Gas will be sourced from six fields, together containing an estimated 9 trillion cubic feet.

Project development work covers: the drilling of 52 development wells, management of 16 existing wells and construction of surface installations for processing 22 million cubic metres a day of raw gas; the building of infrastructure to transport 6,500 million cubic metres a year of gas; and the construction of a new liquefaction plant at Arzew with nominal capacity of 4 million tonnes a year of LNG.

The tender for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) work on the development, expected to consist of one main package, is expected to be launched in the third quarter of 2006. Repsol holds a 60 per cent stake in the operating consortium, with Gas Natural holding the remaining 40 per cent.