Contracting groups led by France’s Technip and Japan’s JGC Corporation are front runners to win a $1.2bn Qatargas construction deal to maintain the company’s current levels of liquefied natural gas (LNG) production.

Four international contracting groups bid for the job, dubbed the plateau-maintenance project, on 25 October.

The bidding groups are France’s Technip and Japan’s Chiyoda Corporation; Japan’s JGC Corporation with South Korea’s GS Engineering & Construction; Italy’s Saipem; and Japan’s Toyo Engineering Corporation in a consortium with South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering & Construction.

An executive close to the project says the Technip and JGC-led groups are the joint favourites to win the contract.

“It is down to these two groups now, but a decision has yet to be made either way,” says the executive.

The winning bidder will help Qatargas, a joint venture between Qatar Petroleum and international oil companies, keep its liquefied natural gas (LNG) output at 10 million tonnes a year at its Qatargas I project at the Ras Laffan industrial complex until 2030.

The Technip-Chiyoda team carried out the front-end engineering and design (Feed) contract for the project in the first half of 2009.

The engineering, procurement and construction deal requires the winning group to build a sulphur-recovery unit and undertake offshore drilling. The contract is expected to run for three years and four months.