Socar Aurora is preparing for the third phase of expansion at its oil storage operations at the UAE’s east coast port of Fujairah.

The operator, a joint venture between State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (Socar) and Switzerland-based Aurora Progress, has invited interested companies to submit expressions of interest (EoI) in the project.

The third phase will expand Socar Aurora’s Fujairah oil storage capacity to around 640,000 cubic metres by 2015. The company is currently carrying out the second phase expansion to expand capacity by over 200,000 cubic metres.

The engineering, procurement and construction contract (EPC) for the second phase, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2013, has been awarded to Italy’s Belleli Energy.

At the same time, civil and electrical sub-contracts for the second phase were respectively awarded to Fujairah National Construction & Transport Company (FNTC) and Sweden’s Consilium.

The same three companies were awarded the contracts for the first phase of the terminal project in 2010-2011 and are also expected to bid for the third phase along with other contractors. The second and third phases are both estimated to require an investment of $100m.

Sharjah, UAE-based MUC Oil & Gas Engineering Consultancy has provided the consultancy for all three stages of the project, which will have a final throughput capacity of over 5 million tonnes a year.

Fujairah’s location on the Gulf of Oman coast of the UAE gives it a strategic advantage as an oil storage facility, which will be enhanced by the Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline (Adcop).

The 1.5 million barrels a day pipeline, which is expected to start up later this year, will allow Abu Dhabi to export oil through Fujairah by bypassing the Strait of Hormuz – the key oil route which Iran threatened to close during a diplomatic spat with the UAE’s Western allies.

“Fujairah’s geographical location and its connections with other countries and with Abu Dhabi mean it is going to be a major global storage hub for oil products,” says a source working on the Socar Aurora project.