Bernstein, the research house whose forecast for the average 2010 crude oil price came within 1pc of the actual $79.60 a barrel, is predicting that oil will average $90 this year, an increase of 13pc.
Based on the median estimate of 34 industry analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, crude futures will average $87 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. This level would be the second highest recorded in a year after the $99.75 of 2008, and 40pc more than the $62.09 of 2009.
Oswald Clint, Bernstein's head oil analyst in London, said: "We expect OPEC to have to increase their production, causing a reduction in spare capacity, which to us is increasingly becoming a more important determinant of oil prices. Since China became a more important part of the demand pie, the spare-capacity factor has become more important."
The forecasts have been revealed as oil begins to flow through a new pipeline between Russia and China, linking the world's largest oil producer and biggest energy consumer for the first time.
"The operation of the China-Russia crude oil pipeline is the start of a new phase in China-Russia energy cooperation," Yao Wei, general manager of the Pipeline Branch of PetroChina, said.