* Russia’s Putin unhappy about Urals discount to Brent
* Previous attempts to launch Urals futures failed
* Russian cenbank expects foreign firms taking part in trade (Adds detail, quote)
By Olesya Astakhova and Alexander Ershov
MOSCOW, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Russia launched trading of a futures contract for Urals crude oil URL-E in Moscow on Tuesday, in a step to secure greater prominence for the Russian export blend.
President Vladimir Putin has long called for the creation of a Urals futures contract and has said he is unhappy that Urals is sold at a discount to benchmark Brent crude.
Urals is currently priced in the physical market, usually at a discount to Brent by pricing agencies, which survey traders and refiners.
This month, the head of the St. Petersburg International Mercantile Exchange (SPIMEX), Alexei Rybnikov, organised a roadshow for Russia’s new Urals futures contract in London.
Russia will ship the first Urals cargo sold via the futures contract from Primorsk in March.
Rybnikov said that all Russian oil companies have registered at SPIMEX to take part in the trading.
“The exchange expects to conclude 10,000 contracts per day in a year, a year and a half,” Rybnikov told reporters.
The Russian central bank on Tuesday said it expected foreign firms to also participate in trading Urals crude oil futures.
Sergei Shvetsov, the bank’s first deputy governor, said the contract was needed for Russia’s oil industry to take its place in global price-setting.
“We have great hopes that the project will be successful,” Shvetsov said in a statement.
Previous attempts to establish Urals as an internationally recognised benchmark grade have failed, including a proposal in 2007 to trade Urals futures in New York with an option of physical delivery from Russia’s Baltic Sea port of Primorsk.
Some traders have been sceptical about the plans to decouple Urals from Brent citing a lack of liquidity along the forward curve for Urals futures.
Western trading sources said they were waiting for a big Russian producer to offer volumes via SPIMEX, Russia’s largest commodities exchange, before committing to trade via it. (Writing by Alexander Winning and Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Katya Golubkova and Jason Neely)