Petrol prices to surge amid Saudi instability

Diesel costs have been going up at a faster rate than unleaded prices

By James Sillars, Business Reporter

UK motorists are driving towards a surge in fuel costs, according to motoring organisations as oil prices hit levels not seen for two-and-a-half years.

The RAC predicted a rise of 3p-per-litre for unleaded users in the next fortnight as oil markets factor in uncertainty on several fronts.

Brent crude struck $64 a barrel on Monday, continuing a rise in oil costs in recent weeks that had been mostly built on market hopes of further production cuts to tackle a longstanding supply glut.

But stability in Saudi Arabia – the world's largest producer – has come in to sharp focus in recent days.

Initially, the market was forced to digest the potential implications of a reform drive by the country's crown prince.

While Mohammed bin Salman had already revealed ambitions to diversify the country's economy away from its reliance on oil wealth, he launched a corruption purge at the weekend that has seen dozens of businessmen, military top brass and even princes detained.

Billionaire Saudi investor  Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is among the senior figures detained
Billionaire Saudi investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is among the senior figures detained
All those detained under the crackdown are being held at a five-star hotel in Riyadh
All those rounded up under the corruption probe are being held at a five-star hotel in Riyadh

Attention then turned to growing tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran over the Saudi-led military action against the Houthi movement in Yemen.

Saudi state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday that Mohammed bin Salman had accused Iran of supplying rockets to the group which could "constitute an act of war".

The strongly-worded remarks were a response to the firing of a rocket into Saudi Arabia.

The impact of rising prices is already being felt by UK motorists – with more upwards pressure looming in the coming weeks as oil costs can take up to three weeks to be reflected in pump prices.

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According to the latest data from Experian Catalist, drivers can expect to pay an average of almost 119p per litre for unleaded and 121p for diesel.

Both the RAC and AA told Sky News drivers should brace for increases at the petrol station.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: "Petrol will be most affected with the current average price of 119p a litre rising by around 3p in the next fortnight.

"Diesel, which currently costs an average of 121p a litre, is likely to go up by a penny."

He pointed to the prospect of further production cuts being announced by the OPEC group of producing nations as potentially putting further pressure on prices though the AA said higher US crude output could provide a counter balance.

Its fuel spokesman, Luke Bosdet, said higher fuel costs spelled bad news for the economy.

"This time the stakes for drivers and the UK drivers and consumers have been made worse by the interest rate rise, which came off the back of higher inflation fuelled partly by high pump prices.

"Higher pump prices siphon money from the high street to the pump. That is bad news for shops and shoppers heading towards Christmas."

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