Petrol prices fall to a four-year low and cost of heating oil plummets by a third
Motorists have been handed an early Christmas present with prices at the pumps falling to a four-year low.
And amid sliding oil prices across the world, the cost of home heating oil has also been slashed in recent weeks by fuel companies across Northern Ireland.
Heating oil has dropped to as low as £210 for 500 litres or £369 for 900 litres.
Experts have predicted further savings in the coming weeks.
A supermarket price war means drivers will save 2p on a litre of petrol and 1p off diesel at Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury's.
The Asda cut, effective from today, will take its petrol down to 112.7p a litre - the cheapest since October 2010.
Asda is also reducing its diesel to 118.7p a litre. The company's petrol was as high as 126.7p a litre on September 28 this year.
Asda and other supermarkets have introduced a number of fuel reductions in recent days, with more cuts expected in the near future.
Scott Kennerley, Head of Policy (Transport) at the Consumer Council, said the cuts were timely for consumers in the run-up to Christmas.
"This week the average price in Northern Ireland was 117.9 pence per litre (ppl) for petrol and 122.7 ppl for diesel," he said. "Prices peaked in April 2012 when petrol hit 143.1ppl and diesel 147.6 ppl.
"Therefore, today's figures show that prices have fallen by roughly 25 ppl since their peak, or a saving of £12.50 on a 50-litre fill, which is great news for consumers just before Christmas.
"Our figures show the cheapest petrol (113.9 ppl) is in Newtownabbey and the dearest (126 ppl) in Enniskillen. The cheapest diesel (119.7 ppl) can be found in a number of towns: Newtownards, Coleraine, Cookstown and Omagh. However, the dearest diesel on the forecourt (131.9 ppl) was also found in Omagh.
"Therefore, motorists in Omagh could save as much as 12.2 ppl, or £6.10 for a 50-litre fill, by shopping around."
Mr Kennerley said a postcode lottery remains an issue in Northern Ireland: "The Consumer Council has found that prices still vary greatly depending on where you fill up, and also that the supermarkets here do not offer the same cut-price fuel across all of their forecourts. Therefore, we continue to call on the supermarkets to offer their best prices for petrol and diesel to all their customers. Motorists should not be disadvantaged because of their postcode."
Experts last night predicted further savings at the pumps in the coming weeks, with heating oil expected to fall further too.
The average price of home heating oil in Northern Ireland is currently around £228 per 500 litres or £395 for 900 litres.
The average cost has fallen below £400 for a 900 litre fill for the first time in four years.
This represents a drop of 33% in prices since oil peaked at £600 for 900 litres in February 2013.
The Northern Ireland Oil Federation (NIOF) is suggesting that consumers should use this relief in prices to top up their tanks.
David Blevings from NIOF said: "There are a number of factors pushing prices lower. US oil production has risen sharply and this has displaced OPEC (Organis ation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) crude and as a result increased the competition among suppliers. In addition, Saudi Arabia has repeatedly cut its 'official selling prices' to the key demand zones of the US, Europe and Asia, driving prices lower.
"Local NIOF distributors operate in an extremely competitive market. These competitive pressures ensure that when the price of oil drops on the international market the savings are passed on quickly to consumers in order to retain their custom.
"This is the major factor why oil remains the dominant energy provider for over 500,000 local households across Northern Ireland."
Linda Robinson, head of Age NI, said: "The falling cost of heating oil is good news for older people and others who are struggling to get by, particularly given the current weather conditions. We would welcome its extension in the longer term. Despite this, over 40% of older people are struggling to get by on their income. With over 57% of older people in Northern Ireland living in fuel poverty - spending more than 10% of their income on heating their homes - we believe there is scope for the type of price support for vulnerable older households that exists in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland."