US consultancy Purvin & Gertz is conducting feasibility studies for Saudi Aramco’s $7bn Jizan refinery project, sources close to the scheme have revealed to MEED.

The US firm has been working on the study since early 2010, one engineering executive with knowledge of the project tells MEED. A completion date for the contract is not yet known.

Purvin will complete market studies including supply and demand projections, look at the cost of building the plant and work out the best possible configuration for the project.

Aramco currently plans to build the 400,000 barrel a day (b/d) plant in two phases. The first part of the development will be a simple hydroskimming refinery, which can be built quickly and will provide basic fuel products.

More complex units, such as a hydrocracker that produces more saleable gasoline products, will be added during a second phase of the project. Design contracts for this part of the development are likely to be launched in 2011.

The state energy giant is expected to tender the combined front end engineering, design and project management services contract for the project by the end of August.

The winning bidder will design a basic 400,000-tonne-a-year hydroskimming refinery and associated marine terminals. The chosen bidder will also help to tender and oversee construction contracts on the scheme in 2011.

The estimated $7bn Jizan refinery was originally planned as a public-private partnership between the kingdom’s Petroleum & Mineral Resources Ministry and a foreign investor. However, Aramco took over management of the development in February after only two consortiums submitted proposals for the project in a November 2009 bid round (MEED 9:2:10).