Four international engineering consultancies have emerged as the frontrunners for the engineering services contract that focuses on offshore operations tendered by Saudi Aramco.

MEED reported that firms had submitted final commercial bids for the Maintain Potential Programme (MPP) in August 2014 after technical submissions were submitted in the second quarter. The four companies believed to be in a good position to be awarded a contract are:

“Clarification meetings are ongoing and there is still a lot to sort out before Aramco makes a decision,” says an oil and gas source based in Saudi Arabia.

Australia’s WorleyParsons is the current holder of the MPP contract and has employed 350 dedicated staff on the scheme since 2003. It was awarded a two-year extension in 2013 that will expire in the summer.

Aramco is expected to make an award in April and then give the successful bidders 90 days to mobilise workers.

The MPP has traditionally been one of the largest engineering services contracts to be awarded in the kingdom and the potential new strategy indicates the new scope would be even more expansive and include more companies.

Another oil and gas source based in Saudi Arabia has even suggested that three companies could be selected. He says: “There has been no definitive statement from Aramco that they only want two companies. If three engineering firms works better than two then [Aramco] might go with that.”

Aramco has extensive offshore operations on its Gulf coast including Safaniya, the world’s largest offshore oil field, and several large non-associated gas fields. Many of the Gulf fields are mature and likely to require extensive rehabilitation over the next decade to maintain production. Hundreds of new wells need to be drilled every year to maintain operations in shallow-water fields.

Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter: @MEEDKevin