Lloyd's insurer, Novae Group, is entering into the energy market for the first time following the appointment of a dedicated underwriter.

The company will write £15m of subscription business for offshore and onshore production risks in 2007, which represents around 5% of the group's capacity.

Jason Poulastides, who was previously deputy energy underwriter for St Paul Travelers, joins Novae just as the sector pushes through some of its biggest ever rate rises of between 30% and 50%.

Novae said it would take a conservative approach to Gulf of Mexico risks - where hurricanes Katrina and Rita wreaked devastation last summer, causing losses estimated at up to $5bn.

Peter Matson, Novae Group's chief underwriting officer, added: "[Novae] is looking for diversity, so it is not over reliant on any one class of business.

"This is a significant move for the group, because it represents a recognition that Novae, once SVB, has made great strides since its troubled times and that people now want to join us."

Poulastides said: "This is a great time to develop a new energy portfolio, but this is not purely an opportunistic venture - Novae plans to be a long-term player in the energy market.

"We are in a very hard market right now but we're taking a sensible approach to build up a solid, long-term profitable book of business."