A STEEL firm has given the region’s fraught industry some welcome respite after announcing a lucrative energy contract.

Tata Steel says its Hartlepool Pipe Mill will support Maersk Oil’s $4.5bn North Sea Culzean project.

The company added its Hartlepool site, known for offshore work, will deliver more than 18,000 tonnes of steel pipe, with work expected to start this month and last more than a year.

The company hasn’t released the value of the deal, but says it is a multi-million pound agreement.

It added Hartlepool firm BSR Pipeline Services will provide coating for pipes as part of a joint venture.

Maersk says the development, which will include a 53km gas pipeline, could cover about five per cent of the UK’s total gas use by 2020, with extraction expected to start in 2019.

Richard Broughton, Tata’s commercial manager for exploration and production, said the firm’s reputation in supporting the energy sector was a key factor in securing the contract.

He said: “We worked very closely with Maersk to ensure the stringent technical requirements were understood.

“Our technical capability to make low temperature pipelines with tight dimensional control is well proven, and I’m confident this was a key consideration in the tender.

“We have executed projects of this nature in the past with extreme precision and accuracy, ensuring achievement of project objectives and client goals.

“We are excited to be working with Maersk.”

Tata operates three mills at Hartlepool, where it employs about 700 staff.

The site’s 42-inch mill previously oversaw a contract worth more than £100m to supply 214 miles of pipe to the Discovery gas project, in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Maersk work represents a significant coup for the company and provides much-needed relief as it battles cheap imports and rising energy costs.

The firm is also moving on from the collapse of proposals to sell its loss-making Long Products division to US billionaire Gary Klesch.

Mr Klesch, a former steel mill electrician, had been in discussions for nearly a year, but walked away from talks in early August amid claims the Government isn’t doing enough to support steel makers.

Tata has now made Long Products, which includes the Teesside Beam Mill, near Redcar, a standalone wholly-owned subsidiary in its European operations.

Bosses hope the move will help attract investor funding and support the buying of raw materials and selling of its products.