* CCI hires Singapore-based trader for naphtha -mkt sources
* Company has not responded to requests for comment
* Firm currently trades fuel oil, petchem from Singapore
By Seng Li Peng
SINGAPORE, June 17 (Reuters) - U.S. company Castleton Commodities International LLC (CCI) is expanding its oil product trading in Asia to include naphtha, market sources said.
The privately held commodities merchant has been trading fuel oil through its Singapore office for more than 18 months, along with petrochemical feedstocks including aromatics and olefins derivatives.
A string of firms have either expanded or started naphtha trading operations in Singapore in recent years, as the region looks to plug a supply gap with shipments from Europe and the Mediterranean.
Four traders said CCI has hired a Singapore-based South Korean trader for its light fuel business, although it was unclear when he would officially join the firm. They declined to be named as they were not authorised to speak with media.
CCI, previously known as Louis Dreyfus Highbridge Energy and headquartered in Connecticut, did not respond to requests for comment by email or by phone.
Naphtha, a feedstock for petrochemicals that are used to make plastics, could complement CCI's petrochemicals business, the traders said.
The move would also come as the United States could start to push more naphtha to Asia as petrochemical firms in the country increasingly turn to ethane instead as a result of the shale gas boom.
"Naphtha has lots of arbitrage flows and there could be more U.S. cargoes coming to Asia in the future," said a Singapore-based trader.
The trader joining CCI left his previous firm, headquartered in Singapore, in early June, the sources said.
As a rule of thumb, traders do not trade the same product for a period of about two or three months after leaving a company, they added.
Other firms that have expanded or started naphtha operations in the city state since 2008 include Norway's Statoil, Mercuria Energy, Mabanaft GmbH and Noble Group.
In the first half of 2014, a monthly average of 1.3 million tonnes of naphtha were lifted from the West for arrival in Asia. That compared with a monthly average of 1 million tonnes in the same period last year.
But supplies in Asia are expected to increase with three new condensate splitters, totalling 380,000 barrels per day (bpd), starting to operate from July.
Two of those are in South Korea, owned by SK Energy and Samsung Total, and one is in Singapore, owned by Jurong Aromatics. Typically, naphtha accounts for more than 40 percent of oil products made in a condensate splitter.
(Editing by Joseph Radford)