South Korea’s Hanwha Engineering & Construction has emerged as the frontrunner to win the main contract on an estimated $500m chemicals project in southern Oman.

The project’s operator Saltic FZCO plans to build an ethylene dichloride (EDC) and caustic soda complex in Salalah Free Zone, Dhofar governorate, by the end of 2014.

According to a company active on the project, Hanwha submitted the lowest bid on the project’s engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract, which was tendered in March this year.

The project is designed with a capacity to produce 1,231 tonnes a day (t/d) of EDC – a chemical intermediate – and 1,000 t/d of caustic soda, which is used in producing paper, soap, detergents and bleach.

Saltic selected UK-based Ineos to provide the technology for the EDC plant, while Japan’s Chlorine Engineers Corporation was hired for the caustic soda facility. Canada’s SNC-Lavalin and Korea’s STX were involved in detailed engineering work on the project.

Salalah, Oman’s southern industrial hub, already houses a growing chemicals industry. Salalah Methanol Company completed a $750m methanol plant in 2010, while Octal Petrochemicals’ operates polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and amorphous PET plants in the area.

Oman recently completed a new gas pumping plant to meet the growing energy needs of industries around Salalah.