Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 28 May 2016

Northern Ireland diesel at lowest price in UK as oil cost tumbles

By Margaret Canning

Published 21/01/2016

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
Businesses and consumers in Northern Ireland are benefiting from lower fuel prices
Haulage
A setter operator at work at a manufacturing company
Stephen Kelly

Northern Ireland has the cheapest diesel in the UK as tumbling oil prices help bring lower prices at the pumps.

But the plummeting price of oil has led to turbulence in the markets, with top flight shares losing £52bn on the FTSE yesterday.

As the FTSE 100 closed at 5,673, it officially entered 'bear' territory with 20% lost since April 2015's high of 7,103.

Yesterday was the market's lowest level since November 2012.

Oil prices have collapsed by more than 70% since their peak of around $115 a barrel in summer 2014, as large producers such as Saudi Arabia maintain production levels, putting US shale rivals under pressure.

But the trend is translating into lower prices on petrol station forecourts.

According to Experain's Catalist data service, the average diesel price in Northern Ireland was 101.62p per litre - the cheapest in the UK.

And in some parts of Northern Ireland, including Newry, diesel was at 99.9p per litre, according to Petrolprices.com.

But petrol in the border city was 103.9p per litre, compared to 99.9p in numerous Belfast forecourts.

Meanwhile, Experian's weekly report for January 20 said unleaded petrol was hovering at 102.2p per litre on average, the fourth cheapest in 12 UK regions.

Luke Bodsnet of motoring organisation the AA said prices at the pumps would be even cheaper without the ramping up of prices in the commodity markets.

Prices had fallen here partly due to the influence of prices in the Republic and greater penetration of supermarket prices, he said.

Crude oil prices have been falling since 2014, but large Middle Eastern producers have kept up output in a bid to retain market share and put US shale rivals under pressure.

And while long-term impact on the global economy is uncertain, it's bringing short-term benefits to many businesses and consumers.

But Seamus Leheny, manager of the Freight Transport Association in Northern Ireland, said fuel duty remained a problem. Mr Leheny said: "Fuel represents one third of annual operating costs for hauliers and is consistently the number one concern for our members.

"The high cost of fuel ultimately affects the price of goods on shelves and exports hence if the cost of transporting goods is reduced then it benefits consumers and exporters. However, for every £1 a litre at the pump, 60p is fuel duty, thehighest in the EU, and 16p is VAT so the biggest winner is ultimately the government."

He said the FTA would continuing lobbying the Chancellor for a cut in fuel duty.

And Stephen Kelly, the chief executive of Manufacturing NI, said transportation was benefiting from the falling prices.

But oil prices were falling in competitors' markets so the advantage was not limited to Northern Ireland, he said.

"Certainly haulage prices are reflecting cheaper fuel but we've yet to see significant savings in ferry and other transportation. Getting those prices down would have more of an impact on our competitiveness," said Mr Kelly.

Falling oil prices were wreaking disruption on global markets. New York's Dow Jones Industrial Average falling more than 2% in early trading, while Germany's Dax and the Cac 40 in France were around 3% lower.

London, meanwhile, has seen over £160bn wiped off the value of top flight shares in the first three weeks of the year due to slowing growth in China and falling oil prices.

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