Oil Pump Jacks
Crude oil prices continue to fall as 2015 beginsReuters

Oil prices have fallen to fresh, five and a half year lows as abundant supply from Opec countries combined with weak global demand continue to weigh heavily on markets.

The Brent futures and WTI contracts have plummeted over the last few months. These had regained some ground, but fell again on 5 January to hit 2009 lows of under $60 per barrel (bbl).

In stark contrast to current figures, back in 2013 and 2012 oil prices averaged $100/bbl.

The US WTI contract tumbled by over a $1 to reach $51.40/bbl at its lowest point so far today.

At the same time, the February Brent contract fell as low as $55.36/bbl.

Conflicts in Libya have cut production there to around 380,000 barrels per day. However, Opec officials have repeatedly refused to wilfully cut output to buoy up prices.

"It is not in the interest of Opec producers to cut their production, whatever the price is. Whether it goes down to $20, $40, $50, $60, it is irrelevant," said Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi.

Only days before al-Naimi's comments, Suhail al-Mazrouei, energy minister of the United Arab Emirates told a Bloomberg conference in Dubai: "We are not going to change our minds because the prices went to $60/bbl, or to $40/bbl."

Opec's secretary general, Abdallah Salem el-Badri echoed these views: "The decision has been made. Things will be left as is," he said.

"The fundamentals should not lead to this dramatic reduction [in price]. Some people say this decision was directed at the United States and shale oil. All of this is incorrect. Some also say it was directed at Iran and Russia. This also is incorrect."