Home heating oil price hike could add £92 to bills
Householders in Northern Ireland are being advised to stock up on home heating oil "sooner rather than later" as prices are expected to rise in the coming weeks.
Industry experts issued the warning following a 23% hike in just one month, after the cost of a litre of oil rose from 31.05p in September to 38.25p in October.
BoilerJuice boss Ian Ronald said it represented the steepest monthly heating oil increase since the winter of 2010, making it the third biggest price increase on record.
If rises continue, it will be enough to add a hefty £92 to average annual bills for local householders in three-bedroom semi-detached properties.
The bad news will hit consumers hard as temperatures continue to fall, and it also comes at a time when fuel prices have been soaring in recent weeks.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Ronald said that Northern Ireland's 400,000 households currently using home heating oil continue to be impacted by fluctuations - and he urged consumers to act immediately.
"Speculation on OPEC oil production cuts was a key factor in why heating oil suppliers have increased their prices of late," he said.
"With another meeting of the oil producers cartel taking place later this month, there's a chance that further speculation continues to impact heating oil prices."
He added: "We recommend checking your tank sooner rather than later.
"Considering that heating oil prices increased sharply around the last OPEC meeting, it is reasonable to assume that prices could increase further before the next meeting takes place on November 30."
On September 22, for example, 900 litres of oil cost £279.45, compared to £339.84 today. That's a difference of £60.39.
Meanwhile, on that same day 500 litres were priced at £155.25, which is £33.55 less than it would set you back at today's rate of £188.80. Figures obtained by the Belfast Telegraph from BoilerJuice, the independent heating oil website, show that from April 2015 to March 2016 the average household across the province ordered heating oil 2.2 times per year.
The average number of litres ordered here was 621, which equates to 1,366 litres each year for a Northern Ireland home.
Using the price per litre on September 22, the cost of 1,366 litres was £424.14, but that same amount of oil would today set you back £515.80 - an increase of £91.66.
Mr Ronald said that between September and October the price of crude increased by 8.5%, including a one-year high of $53.29 per barrel on October 10.
"This is widely believed to be the most significant factor affecting heating oil prices," he said.
"We do recognise times are uncertain for heating oil users, but whilst the recent price rise has been dramatic, heating oil still represents the cheapest form of energy available after historic price lows earlier in 2016."
Prices have soared recently due to a number of world events.
That included the weakened value of sterling following the EU referendum result, and speculation that many major oil producers, in particular Russia, were open to striking a deal with OPEC to reduce oil output.
Michael Toner, who runs price comparison website cheapestoil.co.uk, said recent price rises have been due to the weakening pound against the dollar.