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Three teams hunt £115m gas job

CONTRACTS - KENT

A MASSIVE £115 million liquid natural gas project at the Isle of Grain in the Thames Estuary has attracted three bids.

A team of Foster Wheeler and Technigas is pitched against a group featuring Balfour Beatty, Belgian consultant Tractebel and Entrepose, while US firm Chicago Bridge & Iron has also priced the project. Skanska is believed to on board with them.

All three returned bids this week to client Grain LNG, a subsidiary of National Grid Transco.The finished terminal in Kent is likely to receive Britain's first LNG cargo.

The winning bidders will construct three giant containers of 190,000 cu m on the 385 ha former BP oil refinery site.

The containers will help house 4.4 billion cu m of LNG per year when the facility opens - as early as April 2005.The scheme includes building heating facilities to transform the LNG back into gas.

The project is one of a number of LNG schemes springing up around the UK, a sign of the country's move towards becoming a net gas importer as North Sea output declines and domestic demand continues to grow.

Skanska is already on site at the Isle of Grain after it won the contract to build an import terminal in June last year.

A source said: 'We think Skanska may be in talks with CB&I - you'd be surprised if they weren't chancing their arm on this one.'

Foster Wheeler will be hoping to bounce back from defeat last week on the £200 million Dragon LNG project in Pembrokeshire.Whessoe walked off with that deal.

Grain LNG will make a decision in early January.The three-year project is scheduled to begin in March.