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Shock as oil prices double in past year

HOME heating oil prices in Northern Ireland have almost doubled in the last year, it emerged today.

HOME heating oil prices in Northern Ireland have almost doubled in the last year, it emerged today.

Compared to last year's 25-year low record prices, customers have to fork out almost double to beat the winter chill.

Instead of last year's low of around £83 for 900 litres, consumers now have to pay a whopping £160 plus.

Last year it cost oil distributers less than $$10 for a barrel of oil compared to an astonishing $$26 per barrel for this year.

Today campaigners for the elderly said that pensioners who receive a winter fuel payment of £100 are being hit by prices that rise almost weekly.

Mr Tom Cairans, Deputy Director of Age Concern, today hit out at the rocketing prices: "This increase is not welcomed at all.

"Older people will rarely have fuel debts and would rather switch off than get a bill they cannot afford."

Mr Cairans called for an increase in pensions to combat the heating problems faced by the elderly.

Colin Ritchie of oil suppliers Hugh Ritchie and Sons, who is a Maxol authorised supplier, today voiced concern consumers are paying the price of rocketing oil prices.

He said: "We are obviously concerned about the rising prices, but there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.

"There is a big demand from customers and we are trying to hold off rising the price."

Importers hope a shortage of oil in Northern Ireland will be relieved by shipments over the weekend.

Maeve Bell of the General Consumer Council today urged oil companies to take into account the financial hardship of thousands in the province.

"We would also strongly encourage consumers to shop around, calling two or three suppliers before placing their order."

A BP spokesman said today the price hike was in line with the rest of the world.

"This is because the world price of crude oil has increased through the year.

"There has been a shortage of heating oil but this has been resolved now.

"Stocks were very low and we had to carefully manage stocks to ensure no-one ran out of oil.

"However, our normal service will resume this weekend with a major shipment arriving in Belfast."

Mr Brian Donaldson, group marketing director for Maxol said oil prices should stabilise in the New Year.