Frontrunners have emerged for two major contracts on the development of Abu Dhabi’s Umm al-Lulu offshore oil field, according to sources close to the bidding process.

Italy’s Saipem submitted the lowest engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) bid of about $1.5bn for the second package of the project.

The contract covers the construction of gas-processing and oil separation platforms, utilities, accommodation and associated facilities at the Umm al-Lulu field, located 30 kilometres northwest of Abu Dhabi.

Project operator Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company (Adma-Opco) received commercial EPC proposals from several companies on 31 January.

South Korea’s Samsung Engineering was the second lowest bidder on the contract, with a consortium of UAE-based National Petroleum Construction Company (NPCC) and France’s Technip in third place.

South Korean groups Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) were in fourth and fifth place respectively, according to sources.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi-based National Petroleum Construction Company (NPCC) submitted the lowest bid of about $800m for the first package of the Umm al-Lulu full field development.

Package one, which contractors submitted bids for on 6 November 2012, covers the construction of wellhead towers, platforms and associated facilities.

HHI, Australia’s Leighton Offshore, US’ McDermott, UK-based Petrofac, Saipem, Samsung Engineering and Technip also submitted commercial proposals on the deal.

The project forms part of Adma-Opco’s plan to add 300,000 barrels a day (b/d) of production capacity from four new offshore fields, with about 100,000 b/d coming from both Umm al-Lulu and Satah al-Razboot (Sarb).

The company is expected to tender two contracts for the development of a third offshore field Nasr, later in the first quarter of 2013.

Adma-Opco is majority-owned by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), with minority stakes held by the UK’s BP, France’s Total and Japan Oil Development Company (Jodco).

Offshore developments are playing a key role in Abu Dhabi’s efforts to increase its crude production capacity to 3.5 million b/d from today’s estimated 2.6 million b/d.