A STEEL firm is close to lucrative deals it believes will catalyse significant market growth, a senior boss has told The Northern Echo.

Liberty Steel is in talks to bring fresh contracts to its Hartlepool base.

Jon Bolton, chief executive, told the Echo that the business hopes the first of its projects “will come soon”, citing the improving oil and gas sector for its confidence.

The business last year bought Hartlepool-based 42-inch and 84-inch submerged arc welded mills from Tata Steel, which employ more than 100 people and have a reputation for processing steel destined for the offshore energy industry.

And, after taking stock following that deal, Scarborough-born Mr Bolton said officials are now working hard to build the site’s workload.

“The priority has been to grow orders because the book had been run down”, said Mr Bolton, who is known for holding management positions at Tata Steel and its predecessors Corus and British Steel.

“The workforce was not seeing work being pursued, so it was depressing for them, but we now hope to see more opportunities for Hartlepool.

“Our challenge is to build work back up and it is going very well.

“We have a local leadership team in place and are working on some projects we hope will come soon”, said Mr Bolton, who previously revealed plans to recruit another 100 staff across manufacturing and office roles.

Upon its deal for the mills, Liberty House Group, within which Liberty Steel operates, said the agreement would help pave the way for the organisation to take greater hold of a 50 million tonne a year global oil and gas pipe market.

Confirming the potential of the offshore sector, following a pronounced hollowing out triggered by a collapse in the price of oil, Mr Bolton also said it was imperative the Hartlepool mills remained open, rather than being mothballed as Tata looked to sell, to remove the threat of customers leaving and potentially never returning.

He added: “Hartlepool thrives on big oil and gas projects and once we get it going, others will come.

“It is an improving sector, it is starting to pick back up again.”

Under the terms of its sell-off, Tata retained a 20-inch Hartlepool mill, since it is linked to the company’s strip products business that is centred on steelmaking in Wales.

Bosses last year vowed to pump nearly £2m into the plant, with the installation of cooling equipment to improve products’ fortitude matched by a drive to advance their surface quality.