Saudi Aramco has awarded the US’ Foster Wheeler the contract to carry out the front-end engineering and design (feed) for its planned 1 billion cubic feet a day (cf/d) gas plant at the Fadhili oil field in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

Engineering consultancies submitted bids in mid-August and after a six-week evaluation period the state-owned oil company decided to award the contract to Foster Wheeler.

“This contract is extremely significant in size and was coveted by several companies,” says an oil and gas source based in Saudi Arabia. “This is a good win for Foster Wheeler.”

The amount of man hours is higher than the initial estimates with almost 500,000 required to carry out the feed work. About 150,000 of these will have to be carried out in-kingdom with the rest being likely to be carried out in Foster Wheeler’s main UK office on the outskirts of London.

Other sources expressed surprise that a consultancy not tied to Aramco’s general engineering services plus (GES plus), a long-term contract the company has signed with the US’ Jacobs Engineering, KBR and Mustang Engineering as well as Canada’s SNC Lavalin and Australia’s WorleyParsons.

“Even though it was clear that only a portion of the work was to be carried out in-kingdom it is still a surprise that this was awarded to a non-signatory of the GES plus,” says an official from a large engineering consultancy.

The engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) tenders are expected to be awarded on Fadhili in in the third quarter of 2014.

MEED reported in early August that initial scope of works for the Fadhili plant will be to process gas from the Khursaniyah oil field and Hasbah non-associated gas field.

Saudi Aramco has ramped up its offshore non-associated gas operations in the Gulf in recent years and is developing several fields in the region. These include the Karan, Hasbah and Arabiyah fields.

Much of the gas contained in Aramco’s Eastern Province hydrocarbon assets has a high sulphur content, so is more difficult to process than sweeter gas.

Aramco is ramping up its gas operations to supply the kingdom with gas for both power generation and industrial use. It plans to produce 15 billion cf/d of gas for domestic use by 2017-18.