Brent crude oil topped $81 a barrel Thursday and experts say the price could reach $100 by the end of 2018 or early 2019. Photo by Monika Graff/UPI
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Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Brent crude oil prices are at their highest point in four years -- but the low $80-range may not be the ceiling.
Both crude oil benchmarks increased more than 40 cents in Thursday morning trading. By 1 p.m., Brent prices were $81.19 a barrel while WTI prices increased to more than $72.05.
Mercuria Energy Group Ltd. predicts $100 oil by the end of the year while Trafigura Group expects it to pass that threshold in 2019.
And Goldman Sachs Group has said it doesn't think the U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil, which go into effect Nov. 5, are enough to push prices up that high.
"[W]e believe another supply catalyst beyond Iran would likely be needed for prices to meaningfully break to the upside," Goldman Sachs analysts said. "In particular, we continue to expect that production from other OPEC producers and Russia will offset losses out of Iran, as has been the case so far."
Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne predicts $100 per barrel oil is coming, and said he's not sure that's good news for the global economy.
"Even for the oil industry, because you know, when price goes too high then you open the door for your competitors" causing demand to fall," Pouyanne said.
That could make electric vehicles and other new energy vehicles more attractive.
The U.S. will not release oil from its emergency stockpiles, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said. Drawing from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve would have a "fairly minor and short-term impact."
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries met last weekend and decided it wouldn't immediately increase production in light of the 1.7 million barrels a day of Iranian oil that could be taken out of the market by upcoming sanctions.
Saudi Arabia has the ability to increase its production but Pouyanne warns it won't happen overnight.
"In our industry, you don't push a button and then oil flows," Pouyanne said. "It's more complex than that, so it takes time."