Italian oil firm Eni is expected to award three engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts in the south of Iraq by April, with the deals worth a total of about $3bn.

Eni, which leads the development of the Zubair oil field, has asked firms to extend their bid bond validity to the end of April, according to sources close to the project.

Three South Korean EPC firms have been in the final stages of talks with the Oil Ministry and Eni since September for a deal to build five new degassing stations. The contractors include Daewoo Engineering & Construction, Hyundai Engineering & Construction and Samsung Engineering.

The proposals were originally submitted in February 2013 by six companies and once again in May 2013.

The bidding firms have previously been asked bid bond extensions, but for longer periods of six months. The new shorter extension indicates Eni and the Oil Ministry are confident of reaching an agreement and approval for the deals in the latest window.

“Normally they ask for extensions for twice what is really needed, so we can probably expect to see the deals approved in February or March and signed shortly after,” says one contractor source.

Eni and its partners – the US’ Occidental Petroleum (Oxy), South Korea’s Korea Gas Corporation (Kogas) and state-owned Missan Oil Company – reached an agreement with the Oil Ministry at the end of May to cut its final production target by almost a third, to 850,000 barrels a day (b/d) from 1.25 million b/d.