Oil prices are down by almost 9% after inventories of crude rose more than expected in the United States.
The Energy Information Administration said crude oil stocks rose by 6.7 million barrels. Gasoline and distillate stocks also rose.
Total demand for oil products in the United States in the past four weeks was down 2.9% from a year ago.
US crude for February delivery was down $US4.19 at $US44.39 per barrel by 1.38pm EST on Wednesday. London Brent crude fell $US2.95 to $US47.58.
Oil prices previously reached a record on $US147.27 per barrel on 11 July last year.
Oil demand in the United States, Europe and Asia has been eroded by the global economic slowdown.
The latest falls were in spite of the crisis in Gaza and a dispute over gas prices between Russian and Ukraine, which has resulted in cuts to various European countries amid freezing mid-winter temperatures.
A similar dispute three years ago raised questions about Russia's reliability as an energy exporter.