OECD Factbook 2011-2012: Economic, Environmental and Social Statistics
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branch Energy and transportation
branch Energy production and prices
    branch Oil prices

The price of crude oil, from which petroleum products such as gasoline are derived, is influenced by a number of factors beyond the traditional movements of supply and demand, notably geopolitics. Some of the lowest cost reserves are located in sensitive areas of the world. There is not one price for crude oil but many. World crude oil prices are established in relation to three market traded benchmarks (West Texas Intermediate [WTI], Brent, Dubai), and are quoted at premiums or discounts to these prices.


Crude oil import prices come from the Crude Oil Import Register. Information is collected according to type of crude and average prices are obtained by dividing value by volume as recorded by customs administrations for each tariff position. Values are recorded at the time of import and include cost, insurance and freight (c.i.f.) but exclude import duties.

The nominal crude oil spot price from 1985 to 2008 is for Dubai and from 1970 to 1984 for Arabian Light. These nominal spot prices are expressed in US dollars per barrel of oil. The real price was calculated using the deflator for GDP at market prices and rebased with base year 1970 = 100.


Average crude oil import prices are affected by the quality of the crude oil that is imported into a country. High quality crude oils such as UK Forties, Norwegian Oseberg and Venezuelan Light are more expensive than lower quality crude oils such as Canadian Heavy and Venezuelan Extra Heavy. For a given country, the mix of crude oils imported each month will affect the average monthly price.


The 1973 Arab oil embargo had a major price impact as Arabian Light prices surged from USD 1.84/barrel in 1972 to USD 10.77 in 1974. The next spike after 1973 came in 1981, in the wake of the Iranian revolution, when prices rose to a high of nearly USD 40. Prices declined gradually after this crisis. They dropped considerably in 1986 when Saudi Arabia increased its oil production substantially. The first Gulf crisis in 1990 brought a new peak. In 1997, crude oil prices started to decline due to the impact of the Asian financial crisis.

Prices started to increase again in 1999 with OPEC target reductions and tightening stocks. A dip occurred in 2001 and 2002, but the expectation of war in Iraq raised prices to over USD 30 in the first quarter of 2003. Prices remained high in the latter part of 2003 and in 2004. Crude oil prices increased dramatically in late August 2005 after Hurricane Katrina hit the eastern coast of the US Gulf of Mexico. Prices continued to increase throughout 2006 as the demand for oil in emerging economies, especially China, put pressure on the supply/demand balance, averaging 24 per cent higher than the previous year. In 2007, the increase continued with Dubai hitting USD 88.82/barrel at the beginning of November and WTI climbing to USD 96.50/barrel.

In early 2008, prices crossed the symbolic USD 100/barrel threshold and reached a new peak just under USD 150/barrel in July 2008; this brought the real price of oil in 2008 to an all time high. At the beginning of 2009, prices fell to USD 40/barrel as the impact of high prices and the onset of the global financial crisis sharply curbed oil demand. Later in the year, prices ranged between USD 70 and 80/barrel.

Crude oil prices increased steadily throughout 2010 and into 2011. At the end of April 2011, Dubai was trading at USD 119.61/barrel and WTI at USD 113.73/barrel.



Further information
Analytical publications
Online databases
Indicator in PDF Acrobat PDF page

Crude oil import prices
    Table in Excel

Crude oil spot prices Figure in Excel
Crude oil spot prices

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