INEOS, the energy giant behind Grangemouth’s sprawling petrochemical complex, is in talks to acquire the Forties North Sea oil pipeline from BP, it emerged last night.

The two companies confirmed that discussions over the sale have taken place, but no details were given on the value or timescale of the deal.

The Forties pipeline is one of the most strategically important pieces of infrastructure in the North Sea, spanning 100 miles of pipeline and handling around 450,000 barrels of oil per day. It supplies the Ineos plant at Grangemouth, which was acquired by the Swiss-based company from BP in 2005.

Speculation over the deal comes after BP sold a 25 per cent stake in the giant Magnus field north of Shetland to EnQuest. London-based EnQuest also acquired from BP interests in related facilities such as the Sullom Voe terminal on Shetland.