Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) has started the bidding process on a $500m deal to build a new acid gas removal plant at the company’s Mina al-Ahmadi refinery.

Contractors have been able to collect the documents outlining the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) deal from 13 December. KNPC has set a 7 March deadline for bids on the deal.

According to documents seen by MEED, 10 international contractors have been prequalified to bid on the deal. Three South Korean firms have been qualified: Daelim Industrial Company, SK Engineering & Construction, and GS Engineering & Construction.

Three Italian firms are also among the approved bidders: Tecnimont, Saipem and ABB Engineering. The four other prequalified firms are the UK’s Petrofac, China’s Sinopec, Japan’s Toyo Engineering and Paris-based Technip.

Contractors planning to bid on the deal say they expect KNPC to award the contract before the end of 2010.

The winner of the EPC contract will build a gas-handling unit at the refinery as well as sweetening facilities that strip sulphur from gas, a sulphur-recovery unit and related infrastructure. The facility will be able to handle up to 230 million cubic feet a day of natural gas and 78,000 barrels of condensates.

The deal is one of the few KNPC is tendering as part of its programme to produce clean fuels that meets international emissions standards.

Two other clean fuel projects, a $15bn refinery at Al-Zour and the long-mooted revamp of the country’s existing refineries, have been delayed as a result of political opposition to major contracts being awarded to foreign companies.