LONDON, May 16 (Reuters) - While major traders expect consolidation in the crowded oil trading sphere, small Lugano-based firm Lord Energy is finding new niches and taking a bet by entering into Russian oil.
Hazim Nada set up the Swiss trading firm, now called Lord Energy, a decade ago to deal with coal from Indonesia and South Africa and cement in the Mediterranean market.
This month it is loading its first cargo of Nigerian crude and is adding Russian oil to the list in June, after shifting to crude trading in 2015 dealing with oil from Algeria, Colombia, Brazil and Libya.
Nada, now managing director, said his firm has signed a six-month term deal with the marketing arm of China's CEFC to load an 80,000 tonne cargo of Russian Urals a month from the Black Sea port of Novorossisk. CEFC markets two cargoes of Urals a month from the port.
CEFC has a larger contract with Russia's Rosneft for cargoes of ESPO Blend crude that loads in the Far East.
Lord Energy's end-users have been concentrated in Asia and the United States but with Urals it is also hoping to sell to European refiners.
Nada said he has been blending oil grades to enter China and has re-opened some old arbitrages.
"We currently move about 3-4 million barrels of crude oil per month. We plan to triple this over the next 18 months. Our key to success has been in developing new markets for either established grades or finding new niches for difficult grades," Nada said.
"We have been the first to open the market for (Algerian) Saharan Blend into Australia for over 35 years and we reopened the arbitrage into South Korea... and managed to find a blend for it to take into the Chinese market. We also sold the first cargo of Saharan into the Chinese private sector."
A combination of low oil price volatility, increasing market transparency and rising compliance costs have hit profits of oil traders.
Lord Energy, which also has a presence in Houston and Singapore, aims to expand into U.S. exports and imports and is looking to move into liquefied natural gas next year, Nada said. (Additional reporting by Olga Yagova in Moscow, Florence Tan in Singapore Editing by Susan Fenton)