The two independent power projects (IPPs) planned in Tunisia have both been hit by delays, with the bid deadline for the Bizerte plant pushed back by three months and the prequalification process also held up on the Elmed IPP.

The Industry, Energy & Small & Medium Enterprises Ministry, which is the client on both projects, says it has extended the deadline on the Bizerte IPP from 29 January to 30 April following requests from the potential bidders for more time to prepare their bids.

A total of four groups are lining up to bid. The ministry originally prequalified five bidders in the summer of 2009 but two of the firms, the UK’s International Power and Japan’s Marubeni Corporation, have since joined forces.

The other three teams are Japan’s Mitsui & Company; Malaysia’s Powertek Berhad with Germany’s Siemens; and France’s GdF Suez.

The 350-500MW Bizerte IPP is scheduled to come on line in 2014. The winning bidder will develop the project on a build-own-operate basis under a 20-year concession.

The developer will have the option to double the capacity of the plant at a later date. State utility Societe Tunisienne de l’Electricite et du Gaz (Steg) will buy the plant’s output.

Meanwhile, the energy ministry has also delayed plans to issue a request for prequalification for the Elmed project, which had been due in mid December 2009.

According to Belhassan Shibu, director of the IPP group at the ministry, it is currently finalising the request for prequalification and expects to issue it “soon”.  

The IPP will have capacity of 1,200MW. Of this, 800MW will be exported to Italy via a 200-kilometre-long 400kV submarine cable to Sicily. Steg will buy the remaining 400MW from the developers under a power-purchase agreement.

It will be up to the bidders to propose either gas or coal feedstock for the plant. The successful bidder will develop the project on a build-own-operate basis under a 20-30-year concession. The power plant is due to come on line in 2015 or 2016.

A total of 16 companies have expressed interest in developing the $1.5bn project.

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