U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Vehicle Technologies Office
Fact #538: September 29, 2008
Crude Oil Price Differences
There are more than 150 different types of crude oil that are traded internationally. The characteristics, quality, and price of those types differ. Mostly, differences in the prices of the various crude oils are related to quality, but other factors also influence the price relationships among them. There are two main types of crude oil that are quoted often by the press and industry analysts — West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent. Some prices that are quoted, however, are averages of different types of crude oil. Three of the standard price categories that are commonly used are the NYMEX Futures, OPEC Basket Price, and the Imported Refiner Acquisition Cost. Information on these categories and their price relationships are on the table below.
Crude Oil Prices Commonly Used
|Crude Oil Type
|West Texas Intermediate (WTI)
||High quality, light (39.6 degrees API gravity) and sweet (0.24% sulfur content)
||Usually $5 to $6 per barrel over OPEC Basket
||$133.37 per barrel
||Combination of oil from 15 different fields in the Brent and Ninian systems in the North Sea. Not as light nor as sweet as WTI, but still good quality
||Usually $1 to $2 per barrel less than WTI
||$132.72 per barrel
|Crude Oil Price Categories
||Reported by the Press; Market-determined value of futures contracts to buy or sell WTI or other light, sweet crude oil. This price closely tracks WTI price.
||Usually tracks WTI closely
||$133.48 per barrel
|OPEC Basket Price
||OPEC collects prices of seven crude oils to monitor world oil market conditions.
||Usually $5 to $6 per barrel less than WTI
||$131.22 per barrel
|Imported Refiner Acquisition Cost
||Volume-weighted average price of all crude oils imported into the U.S. over a specified period. Two-month time lag until data are available, but very good estimate of World prices.
||Usually $6 to $8 per barrel less than WTI
||$126.94 per barrel
Source: Energy Information Administration and OPEC
Descriptions, WTI and Brent prices, NYMEX Futures price, OPEC Basket Price, Imported Refiner Acquisition Cost
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