The local Oman Refineries & Petrochemicals Company (ORPC) has started to prequalify contractors for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts for its $1.5bn Sohar Refinery.

The expansion will involve the expanding the design capacity from 116,000 barrels a day (b/d) to 187,000 b/d.

“The prequalification process is ongoing and will be completed shortly,” says a source familiar with the project. “Tenders for the EPC packages are due to come out either in late 2011 or early 2012. I personally think early 2012 is the most likely.”

If tenders are released in the first quarter of 2012, the bid submission and evaluation phases should take about six months to complete before ORPC can announce the winners. The construction is due to take about three years, which means the added capacity will come on stream in late 2015 or early 2016.

Around 35 contractors purchased the bid documents and ORPC will shortlist around 15 companies for the tender phase.

New plants will also be added including a 71,500-b/d crude distillation unit and a 96,800-b/d vacuum distillation unit, as well as additional utilities and offsite facilities.

MEED reported in February that the US’ CB&I Lummus was carrying out the front-end engineering and design (feed) for the expansion project (MEED 28:2:11).