Renergen’s Virginia Gas Project in South Africa’s Free State has taken a step forward with the appointment of three companies to complete feasibility studies for its second phase.

The emerging helium and natural gas company has awarded Saipem the front-end engineering design (FEED) contract for the development of the downstream – liquid natural gas and liquid helium processing facilities, including the associated balance of the plant.

EPCM Holdings, which is currently constructing Renergen’s phase one gas gathering pipeline, has been awarded the FEED contract for the development of phase two’s gas gathering pipeline.

Sproule will evaluate and certify the reserves based on results of the additional data acquisition and current drilling campaign, Renergen said.

The feasibility studies for phase two are expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2021, with a financial investment decision by the Board expected to be taken after.

In a statement, Renergen said the Virginia Gas Project contains one of the richest helium concentrations recorded globally, with readings of up to 12%.

Phase one of production is expected to come into operation later this year, with initial volumes of around 350kg of helium and 2,500GJ of LNG per day, Renergen said.

Read more: Renergen: Virginia project could supply entire world’s helium demand for six decades

Phase two, if it goes ahead, will allow Renergen to produce significantly larger quantities of LNG and liquid helium, the company added.

LNG will be used in South Africa, providing a competitive and cleaner energy source to the country, whilst liquid helium will be exported internationally.