Saudi Aramco and the US’ Dow Chemical are on the verge of awarding the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the mixed-feed cracker package at its planned $18bn petrochemical complex in Jubail.

The bids for the contract were submitted in late April and sources in the kingdom indicate that two South Korean contractors are the lowest bidders for the contract.

“I believe GS [Engineering & Construction] and Daelim [Industrial] are leading the pack for the cracker in regards to price,” a contracting source based in the Eastern Province says. “This is a major package and will be one of the first awarded.”

While the lowest bidders are generally also regarded as frontrunners, the cracker’s designer is France’s Technip, which is also bidding and should not be discounted. A consortium comprising the lowest bidder and Technip is also possible.   

The budget for the cracker package is believed to be between $1.5bn-$2bn.

Due to the joint venture partners not making a final investment decision for at least another 1-2 months, the contract will be awarded on an engineering-only basis to begin with. The remainder of the contract will then be awarded when the decision is made.

“Despite [Aramco and Dow] not making the investment decision on the project yet, I have absolutely no doubts that this will go ahead,” the source says. “Everything is in place now and while there are still several packages to be tendered no one is expecting any major delays.”

The type of cracker that will be used at Aramco Dow has been the source of much speculation. Now it is clear a mixed-feed cracker using ethane and naptha will be built that will produce 1.2 million tonnes a year (t/y) of ethylene and 400,000 t/y of propylene (MEED 29:4:11).

The other contractors bidding for the project includes:

  • JGC Corporation (Japan)
  • Saipem (Italy)
  • Samsung Engineering (South Korea)
  • Tecnicas Reunidas (Spain)

Other technical packages at Aramco Dow where tenders have now been submitted include:

  • Toluene diisocyanate (TDI)
  • Methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI)
  • Dimethyl terephthalate (DMT)

Aramco Dow will be releasing more than 30 tenders in total for the complex with more than 20 still to be released over the next two months by the joint venture partners.