KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) – Saudi Aramco and Dow Chemical are looking for firms interested in building the first stage of a giant joint-venture petrochemical complex in the kingdom, contractor sources said on Monday.
“They issued a solicitation of interest a few days ago,” said a source at a contracting firm that received the offer. “Everybody hopes this means they are going ahead with the project.”
Aramco said earlier this month that the petrochemical plant would start up in 2015, two years behind the initial schedule. It has also delayed plans to expand capacity at the Ras Tanura refinery by 400,000 barrels per day (bpd), which will supply the petrochemical feedstock.
The state oil giant has delayed several large projects to save money on contracting costs. Aramco wants project bids to reflect the slump in commodity, labour and equipment prices with the global economic downturn
Project cost estimates rose rapidly with the rally in commodities prices into 2008.
Dow’s investment in the $20-billion plus plant would be the largest single foreign investment in the energy sector of the world’s top exporter.
The first stage of work entails dredging and site fill for the plant at Ras Tanura, two contractors said. Ras Tanura is also home to the world’s biggest offshore oil facility.
The petrochemical project was still in the engineering and design phase. That phase should be completed in 2010.
“We may see an award of the contract (for this package) in 6 months to 9 months,” the first contractor said, although the sources said that there was no guarantee a bidding process for the contract would go ahead just because the solicitation of interest had been issued.