The joint venture of Qatar Petroleum (QP) and the US’ ExxonMobil has started prequalifying contractors to bid on three technology and design contracts on its $6bn-plus petrochemicals complex at Ras Laffan in the north of Qatar.

The partners are yet to set a firm timeline for the tender process, but engineering firms have been asked to submit prequalification documents for the front-end engineering and design (Feed) and technology deals.

The contracts will cover the design and construction of the main ethane cracker unit, a series of petrochemicals process units, and the offsites and utilities.

The planned complex will include a 1.6-million tonne a year (t/y) steam cracker that will break down natural gas into ethane and then ethylene, two 650,000-t/y polyethylene plants, and a 700,000-t/y ethylene glycol plant. The steam cracker and the polyethylene plants will be the largest of their kind in the world.

Qatar petrochemicals projects
Name Location Completion Value ($m)
QP Linear Alkyl Benzene Plant Ras Laffan Q2 2015 250
QMC Melamine Plant Mesaieed Q2 2010 250
QP/ExxonMobil Olefins Complex Ras Laffan   Q4 2015 6000
Qapco LDPE 3 Mesaieed Q4 2011 550
Source: MEED Projects

QP is yet to decide on whether to tender a contract for a Feed study or a design and build deal for the cracker package.

“The decision has not been made yet, but with ExxonMobil, there is a high chance it will be a Feed first,” says a senior executive at one engineering firm in talks over the project.

The cracker will use ExxonMobil-licensed technology. International contractors with access to this include Japan’s Chiyoda, the US’ KBR and South Korea’s Samsung.

Contractors expected to bid for the process package contract include: KBR, ABB Lummus and Stone & Webster, all of the US, Germany’s Linde and France’s Technip.

“We are getting closer to the ITB [invitation to bid] stage,” says a senior executive at another international engineering firm, who expects to see contracts awarded before the end of 2010.

State-owned QP and ExxonMobil Chemical Qatar, a subsidiary of the US’s energy giant, signed an agreement in January this year to jointly develop the petrochemicals complex at Ras Laffan Industrial City. The Houston-based oil major is involved in almost 80 per cent of the country’s gas projects, including the development of the major Barzan gas field (MEED 6:1:10).

Following the suspension of a joint venture petrochemicals project between South Korea’s Honam Petrochemicals and QP, the project is widely seen as the only major petrochemicals development in Qatar which is likely to go ahead in 2010.

Doha also signed preliminary agreements with France’s Total Petrochemical and the UK/Dutch Shell Group between 2005 and 2007 to develop new joint venture petrochemicals projects using ethane-gas as feedstock, but no further decisions have been made on the future of the schemes.