How low can oil prices go? Here's what the industry thinks

Jessica Morris
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Oil has fallen from over $100 per barrel in June last year (Source: Getty)

Venezuelan oil minister Eulogio del Pino yesterday warned that the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) cannot allow an oil price war, and urged it to take action to stabilise the crude market soon. In response to the question of how low oil prices could go next year if Opec fails to take action, del Pino said "mid-20s".

With the future direction of oil prices notoriously difficult to predict, how does del Pino's forecast fit in with those of other industry insiders?

Opec officials

Opec's official forecasts see oil prices rising by no more than $5 a barrel a year to reach $80 by 2020, nevertheless there's a range of views about the future direction of oil prices within the 12-strong oil cartel.

Secretary general of Opec Abdalla El-Badri has previously warned under-investment could one day push oil prices as high as $200 per barrel.

"If [oil producers] do not invest there will be no supply, if there is no more supply there will be a shortage in the market after three to four years and the price will go up and we'll see a repetition of 2008. Maybe we will go to $200 if there is a real shortage of supply because of the lack of investment," he said at the start of this year.

The banks

Analysts at Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs said there's a chance oil prices could fall as low as $£20 per barrel, if the supply glut persists. "While not our base case, the potential for oil prices to fall to such levels, which we estimate near $20 per barrel, is becoming greater as storage continues to fill," they said in a note.

But Goldman's head of commodities research and commodities, Jeff Curries, subsequently said that the likelihood of a drop to $20 was below 50 per cent.

However, analysts over at investment bank Barclays rubbished the "lower for longer" rhetoric currently washing around the market. They think that Brent crude is most likely to rise to around $85 per barrel by 2020, significantly more than the $65 per barrel which the market is currently pointing to.

Chief execs

The bosses of some of the world's biggest oil companies fear industry-wide under-investment, brought about by the oil price rout, could one day lead to future spikes.

Earlier this year, the chief executive of Italian oil firm Eni, Claudio Descalzi, warned oil prices could hit $200 per barrel if mismanagement by Opec prompts longer-term shortages.

"Opec is like the central bank for oil, which must give stability to the oil prices to be able to invest in a regular way," Descalzi said.

International organisations

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said oil prices are unlikely to hit $80 a barrel before the end of the next decade, as annual global demand growth rises by 900,000 barrels per day to 2020. And it will be another 25 years before oil prices break through the crucial $100 mark.

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