THREE oil and gas firms have agreed to look at sharing gas pipeline infrastructure East of Shetland where they hope to bring big heavy oil fields into production.

Xcite Energy said it has entered a collaboration agreement with EnQuest and Statoil covering the Kraken, Bentley and Bressay fields, which reflects the kind of cooperation between firms the Government wants to encourage.

Under the agreement the firms will consider whether it would make financial sense to install a linked pipeline system serving the fields rather than three individual links.

Gas would provide a cheaper way of powering production facilities than diesel and be easier to store.

Xcite, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands but has an operations office in Aberdeen, has described Bentley as one of the largest undeveloped fields in the North Sea but has not yet finalised a plan for a commercial development.

Rupert Cole chief executive said: "This new collaboration with Statoil and EnQuest to assess this shared infrastructure is an important initiative, which highlights the scope of potential opportunities available to our respective projects. I believe that today's announcement further demonstrates that additional value can be created by companies collaborating in key development activities."

Xcite has stuck a number of partnerships with oil and gas producers and services firms.In May last year it agreed to work with Statoil and Shell to evaluate potential synergies between Bentley and the Bressay field, five miles away. In November Statoil delayed the expected $7bn (£4.3bn) development of Bressay in the hope of simplifying the project and cutting costs.

That month EnQuest gave the go ahead to the £4bn development of Kraken field, in which Cairn Energy has a 25% stake.

The agreements Xcite has made will likely be welcomed by ministers after oil services tycoon Sir Ian Wood noted the importance of oil and gas firms collaborating in his recent report on maximising recovery of reserves from the North Sea.

Separately, Premier Oil has said that it has installed the production platform that will be used on the $1.4bn Solan development West of Shetland.

It hopes to start production later this year.