The price of oil could halve within the next decade because of a shale revolution, according to industry experts.
John Llewellyn, the former head of international forecasting at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, said that most oil price forecasts underestimated radically the impact of new extraction techniques for shale oil and gas on supply.
Official estimates last week revealed that Britain was sitting on enough shale gas to power the country for 43 years, although it remains years from extraction. Cheap gas helps to lower the oil price and many shale rocks also contain oil.
In a report written with Puma Energy, the fuel business owned by Trafigura, Dr Llewellyn said that a shift taking place in oil markets between now and 2020 could reverse the significant change that took place in the 1970s, when the price doubled and the United States became a large net importer of oil. Oil costs more than $100 a barrel today.
“[That change] contributed importantly to the quadrupling of the world price of energy in 1973-74 and the further double in 1978-79. If, as expected, the US becomes energy self-sufficient over the coming 20 years, the shift could be equally profound,” the report states.
One chief executive of a FTSE 100 oil and gas producer said that if shale gas did result in a long-term US gas price close to $5 or $6, that would equate to only $35 a barrel for oil. Even with a premium paid for oil being in a more convenient form than gas, that puts the likely future price of oil at a fraction of current expectations.