Ineos has agreed to acquire a significant share of several shale gas assets in England, giving it access to almost a quarter of a million acres of potential shale gas reserves and becoming the third biggest shale gas player in the United Kingdom.

Last year the chemicals company was awarded two shale gas exploration licenses in Scotland and decisions are awaited on a number of others, most of which are in Scotland and the north of England.

Under the new agreement with oil and gas exploration and production company IGas, Ineos will acquire at least a 50 percent interest in seven shale gas licenses in the northwest of England, along with the option to acquire a 20 percent interest in two further shale gas licenses in the East Midlands.

Ineos is also acquiring IGas's interest in the shale gas license around Grangemouth in Scotland, where the company has a major refinery, giving the company 100 percent ownership of this asset.

Announcing the deal on Tuesday, Ineos said that it will pay IGas £30 million ($45 million) in cash and has also agreed to fund a two-phase work program of up to £138 million ($208 million) to appraise and develop the sites. IGas will reimburse its share of the work program to Ineos when commercial production starts.

The newly acquired assets have the potential to yield significant quantities of gas in the future, according to Gary Haywood, CEO of Ineos Upstream.

"Ineos's scale, asset position across the U.K., U.S. shale gas expertise, and our expertise in managing oil and gas facilities will be a great match with IGas's existing onshore asset base, and significant exploration and production capability," he added.