The local Modern Mining Holding Company and Brazil’s Petrobras are carrying out the front-end engineering and design (feed) for their planned $400m calcined petroleum coke (CPC) plant project in Saudi Arabia.

“There is still some work to be done before engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) tenders can be released,” says a source familiar with the project. “The capacity has still got to be finalised and discussions are ongoing between the partners regarding this.”

EPC tenders are now likely to be released in early 2012 with a completion date set for 2015.

The original capacity of the proposed plant was 700,000 tonnes a year (t/y) and the source would not be drawn as to whether the new figure would be higher or lower.

The scheme will produce CPC for use in the aluminium smelting industry and the source adds that the probable location will be at the new minerals city being constructed at Ras al-Zour in the Eastern Province of the kingdom.

An aluminium executive based in Saudi Arabia says the plant makes economic sense, but the capacity is likely to be lower than 700,000 t/y.

“Current demand in the Middle East is 1.1 million t/y, but with a lot of capacity set to come on stream in the mid-term, this will increase,” says the executive. “A better option would be to imitate the way smelters expand and build the plant in two phases, each with a capacity of 500,000 t/y.”  

Petrobras will supply the green petroleum coke and the scheme will be financed through government and commercial financial institutions, as well as the joint venture partners.