A consortium of UAE-based Petrofac Emirates and US group Bechtel has won a contract to build a $3bn alumina refinery in Abu Dhabi, according to a source from a company involved in the deal.

The engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) contract was awarded by project owner Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA), which operates the UAE’s two smelting operations.

The alumina refinery will be built in two phases, each with a capacity to produce 2 million tonnes a year (t/y) of aluminium, Abdullah Kalban, EGA’s CEO, revealed to reporters at the International Aluminium Conference held in Abu Dhabi in September.

The Petrofac Emirates and Bechtel consortium, which also carried out the project’s feasibility study, are expected to complete the construction phase of the facility by the end of 2017.

Official spokespersons at EGA and Petrofac were contacted by MEED, but would not comment on whether a deal had been awarded. An EGA spokesperson said that “early works on the project will soon begin on a site adjacent to Emirates Aluminium (Emal)”, a subsidiary operating the smelter at Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (Kizad), which is located midway between the cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

In September 2013, EGA awarded two contracts to secure technologies to support the project. A joint venture of Canada’s Hatch Associates and Finnish minerals processing group Outotec were awarded one deal, while Canadian aluminium firm Rio Tinto Alcan was selected for its refinery technology.

The proposed refinery will process imported bauxite to extract alumina (aluminium oxide), which is then used as a raw material to produce primary aluminium in a smelter.

A metals park has been planned by Abu Dhabi at Kizad for several years. The Emal smelter has a capacity of 750,000 t/y and is currently undergoing a phase-two expansion that would double capacity.

EGA is a recent merger between Emal and Dubai Aluminium (Dubal). The combined company is jointly owned by Abu Dhabi’s state-owned Mubadala Development Company and Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD).

EGA currently produces 2.4 million t/y of aluminium products and accounts for almost half of the GCC’s annual aluminium production.