October 30, 2008 / 5:05 PM / 9 years ago

Canadian regulator sees $50-$75 oil this winter

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Global economic turmoil and falling demand should keep oil, gas and electricity prices in check in Canada this winter, the country's energy regulator predicted on Thursday.

The National Energy Board, in its short-term energy outlook, also predicted supplies should be adequate across the country.

The NEB said crude oil should average between $50 and $75 a barrel, with shaky economic conditions around the world overshadowing efforts by OPEC to support prices with supply cuts.

That is a far cry from the record price above $147 a barrel set in July. U.S. benchmark crude fell 2 percent to $65.96 a barrel on Thursday.

Whether oil is at the upper or lower end of the forecast range depends largely on how successful the world's central bankers are at calming skittish markets, NEB oil analyst Christian Rankin told reporters.

"While there is consensus that we're in the midst of a global economic slowdown, perhaps on the brink of recession globally, there is no consensus around how long the recession or slowdown will be and how deep it will be," Rankin said.

At an emergency meeting earlier this month, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to cut production by 1.5 million barrels a day, but the move failed to lift prices. The group meets again in December.

Natural gas prices are forecast to range between $6 and $9 per million British thermal units, the board said. The North American industry begins the heating season Saturday with ample inventories and slipping demand, the board said.

December natural gas on the New York Mercantile Exchange was down 5 percent at $6.44 per mmBtu on Thursday.

Despite lower North American imports of liquefied natural gas, supplies have grown in the United States as producers have lifted drilling activity to pursue rich shale gas deposits in Texas and Louisiana.

North American gas in storage is expected to begin the withdrawal season on November 1 at 4 trillion cubic feet, which is at the high end of recent ranges, and fall to 1.8 tcf by the end of March, NEB gas analyst Henry Mah said.

He said North American consumption should be about flat with last year in residential and commercial heating, but lower in the industrial and power generation sectors.

However, prices would be driven higher if winter temperatures in big markets are much colder than average, or if there are large disruptions to supplies, Mah said.

The NEB also said it expects electricity supplies to be adequate across the country, but tighter in the western provinces, where new additions to generation have lagged economic growth rates.

Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Rob Wilson

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