The problem is being exacerbated by the tight timeframe put forward by the Saudi Water & Electricity Company.

“It is a question of global demand for steam plants, including desalination steam plants, clearly exceeding the capacity of manufacturers,” says a source close to the project. “Whether anyone can supply turbines to Ras al-Zour is a matter of prioritisation. Is it more interesting than other projects?”

The timetable included by Saudi Water & Electricity Company in its request for proposals (RFP), issued in June, is a further area of concern.

“The schedule laid out in the RFPs is extremely aggressive,” says the source.

“Things would get easier if they had a later date.”

Ten groups were invited to bid for the contract in June, but no more than six are expected to do so. The groups have until 10 February 2008 to submit their bids (MEED 7:9:07).

The winning group is expected to receive the notice to proceed in November 2008, and the first unit of the plant is due to come on line 37 months later.

With a 22-month construction, erection and commissioning period for the turbines, this will leave suppliers only 15 months to manufacture and ship the turbines to Saudi Arabia.

Normally, developers would have 48-51 months to complete the first unit on a large steam plant.