Tunisia’s Industry, Energy & Small & Medium Enterprises Ministry plans to issue a request for prequalification for the planned Cap Bon independent power project (IPP) by 17 December, according to a government source.

The ministry is likely to give companies three months to prepare prequalification submissions, but has not decided on a final date.

A total of 16 companies have expressed interest in the TD2bn ($1.5bn) scheme, which will have capacity of 1,200MW of power. State-owned utility Societe Tunisienne de l’Electricite et du Gaz will buy 400MW of power from the plant and the remainder will be exported to Italy through a 1,000MW submarine cable.

The winning bidder will develop the project on a build-own-operate basis under a 20-30-year concession. The power plant will start operating commercially in 2015 or 2016.

Separately, the source says the ministry could delay the bid deadline for the planned Bizerte IPP by two months from the current date of 29 January 2010, after potential bidders asked for more time.

The client has prequalified five companies for the 350-500MW project. They are the UK’s International Power; Japan’s Marubeni Corporation; Mitsui & Company, also of Japan; Malaysia’s Powertek Berhad with Germany’s Siemens; and France’s GdF Suez. The plant is scheduled to start operating in 2014.