Average Crude Oil Price for 2011 Poised to Set 150-Year High, IHS CERA Analysis Says

Global benchmark Brent crude oil expected to average the highest in both real and nominal terms since the earliest years of the modern oil industry

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 9:00 am EST


"Quite simply, we are looking at the highest average price since the age of oil began."

The annual average oil price of global benchmark Brent crude for 2011 is poised to be the highest (in both real and nominal terms) since 1860, the year after the birth of the modern oil industry in Titusville, Pennsylvania, according to a new IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (IHS CERA) analysis. Growing demand amidst supply concerns and rising production costs are sustaining prices at record levels. 

The annual average price of Brent crude so far this year is well above its previous high of about $97 (and constant dollar terms of about $99) in 2008. IHS CERA expects Brent to average about $111 for the year at the end of 2011.

“Brent crude prices are approaching their highest annual average, a level higher than the peaks recorded by other widely accepted benchmarks going back to Colonel Drake and the origins of the modern petroleum industry in Pennsylvania more than a century and a half ago,” IHS CERA Chairman and Author of The Quest, Daniel Yergin said. “Quite simply, we are looking at the highest average price since the age of oil began.”

The high prices have been buoyed by record high oil demand of 89 million barrels per day (bpd) at a time of anxiety about supply from the Middle East and North Africa, where civil war disrupted Libyan supply for much of 2011 and the standoff between the West and Iran continues to increase tension. The report also cites rising oil production costs, such as rising labor and material costs, and the shift to increasingly challenging operating areas, such as the ultra deepwater, as a factor in the record price levels.

“These record prices are being driven by the fundamentals of supply, demand and costs,” Yergin said. “With rising tensions over Iran, geopolitics are coming back into the oil price again.”

“This price level reflects a continuation of the trends from the ‘demand shock’ that lead to the surge in prices that peaked in 2008. What would reverse the trend and send prices down again are a financial contagion and a European recession that slows the world economy.”

New capacity could ease supply concerns and price pressures in the longer term, the analysis says. Higher oil prices—combined with technological advances—have incentivized development of oil that is relatively expensive to produce, such as Canada’s oil sands, the presalt fields offshore Brazil and tight oil formations in the United States. New capacity from these areas, along with new supply from Iraq’s ambitious planned expansion of output from its giant and relatively low-cost fields could ease price pressures in the coming years.

Note to Editors:
The elements of the “demand shock” that sent oil prices surging and peaked in 2008 is examined at length in chapter eight of Yergin’s latest book, The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World.


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IHS (NYSE: IHS) is the leading source of information and insight in critical areas that shape today’s business landscape, including energy and power; design and supply chain; defense, risk and security; environmental, health and safety (EHS) and sustainability; country and industry forecasting; and commodities, pricing and cost. Businesses and governments around the globe rely on the comprehensive content, expert independent analysis and flexible delivery methods of IHS to make high-impact decisions and develop strategies with speed and confidence. IHS has been in business since 1959 and became a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange in 2005. Headquartered in Englewood, Colorado, USA, IHS employs more than 5,500 people in more than 30 countries around the world.



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Energy; Natural Resources
Jeff Marn, +1 202 463 8213
Energy Strategy, Renewable Energy