More than 20 international engineering firms have applied for approval to bid on a $700m-plus pipeline project in Abu Dhabi, with Abu Dhabi Oil Refining Company (Takreer) set to choose suitable contractors before the end of March.

The contractors submitted their prequalification applications on 29 December 2009, and are now waiting for the state refiner to let them know if they have been approved to bid on the engineering, procurement and construction deal.

The contract is one of the biggest pipeline deals to be tendered in the emirate in recent years. It is part of a scheme known as the inter-refinery pipelines project and covers a 230km pipeline linking the Asab oil field with Takreer’s Ruwais refinery.

“It is a huge deal,” says a senior executive at one European firm looking at the project. “As far as we know, as many as 21-22 companies put in applications although I don’t think that many will get through.”

Among the applicants were Techint and Saipem, both of Italy, South Korea’s Samsung Engineering, Athens-based Consolidated Contractors Company, India’s Dodsal and Larsen & Toubro, and Paris-based Technip.

Takreer is remaining tight-lipped as to when it will release the bid documents for the deal, but has said that a formal invitation to bid will be sent out before the end of March, executives involved in talks with the company say.

Takreer first asked firms for prequalification applications on 7 December 2009, setting a 20 December deadline for submissions. The deadline was pushed back by nine days after contractors asked for more time.