Significantly, IOOC has not specified that a foreign/local joint venture must bid for the project, as it has done in the past. The prequalification notice says that the client will award the project to ‘an Iranian or an international contractor or a joint venture or consortium of Iranian and international contractors’. The successful bidder will be expected to bring financing.

IOOC is understood to be targeting a contract award by September, with work scheduled to last 40 months. The schedule implies project start-up in early 2010, well after the completion of the olefins complex, which the plant will feed.

The contract will involve the construction of two gas gathering stations and two identical gas processing plants with a total capacity of 600 million cubic feet a day (cf/d) of natural gas. It will also include storage tanks, pipelines and an export jetty.

The response to the prequalification notice will give a clearer indication of international appetite for Iranian energy projects, in the light of heavy workloads elsewhere in the Gulf and Iran’s growing political isolation. Several of the original bidders for the contract have already indicated that they will not be participating in the retender.