A significant step has been taken in plans to develop a natural gas project in Cumbria worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

Plans for a natural gas platform and delivery project off the coast of Barrow were revealed last summer, potentially creating hundreds of jobs.

InfraStrata, which is a London-based company specialising in major infrastructure projects, entered into an exclusivity agreement to acquire the planned floating storage regasification and reloading unit (FSRU) project from Cayman Islands-based company Meridian Holdings.

Over the last year, InfraStrata has carried out work to assess the feasibility of the project and decide whether to make the acquisition.

Earlier this year it announced it had extended this agreement and, in a statement to the London Stock Exchange today, it confirmed it had entered into an agreement to buy Meridian Holdings from owner West Face Long Term Opportunities Global Master, giving it control of the project.

However, the agreement is subject to a final investment decision on whether the project’s future development goes ahead, at which point InfraStrata will pay £8m for the acquisition.

John Wood, chief executive of InfraStrata, said the initial agreement could lead to a formal sale and purchase agreement within two months.

He said: "The continued traction that we have been receiving from global players within the liquid natural gas markets since the day we announced the exclusivity agreement last year validates our belief that this FSRU project is strategic and crucial to the UK's future natural gas supplies.

"As we move towards a more decarbonised economy, natural gas will be the transitional fuel of choice, with LNG playing the all-important role of balancing natural gas and power markets.

"The intermittency of power generation from wind and solar means natural gas will continue to be the fuel of choice for at least the next few decades.

"We, therefore, continue to remain focussed on energy infrastructure projects like the FSRU project which have a long life, robust economics and provide security of energy supply to the UK whilst casting our eye on future scenarios involving the likes of hydrogen and other new technologies."

The FSRU project includes the development of a floating liquified natural gas receiving port offshore, which will deliver re-gasified volumes of natural gas directly into the UK market through its own national transmission system interconnection at Barrow.

The estimated cost of the project is between £350m and £450m. It is hoped this will be paid for by a consortium of funding partners.

If it goes ahead the project is expected to have a lifetime of up to 30 years producing revenues of between £80m and £100m a year.

It will have a projected capacity of around five to six million tonnes per year, with the aim of helping meet demand at peak times, as well as creating the option to store the gas or use it immediately when required.

Planning permission was first granted for the FSRU in 2014.