Under the proposals first put forward by PB and SaudConsult, two 650-MW units were to be installed at the plant. Plans now focus on the installation of smaller turbines, similar to the 350-MW units already in operation at the plant. No schedule has been set for the expansion, but industry sources say they expect prequalification for the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract to be launched by the end of the first half of next year. An award could then be made by the end of 2002.

France’s Alstom installed the first three units at the plant, which is situated in the Western Region, and is now working on units 4 and 5. When the work now under way is completed, the plant will have capacity of 1,840 MW. The total capacity envisaged for the plant exceeds 3,000 MW. It is not yet clear whether SEC will choose to finance the new expansion itself or tender it as an independent power project (IPP). If it takes the private route, the developer would probably take over the existing parts of the plant, making it the first brownfield IPP in the kingdom.

The first major greenfield IPPs and independent water and power projects (IWPPs) are expected to be developed under the gas initiative, for which agreements are due to be signed on 16 December. The three core ventures will involve direct investment of $20,000 million-25,000 million. Early indications suggest that at least three power plants and three desalination plants are being studied.