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U.S. shale producers' 'knives are already out': Yergin

While oil prices are down after OPEC refused to curtail production, it won't have a big impact on output from U.S. shale producers, at least for the near term, IHS' Dan Yergin told CNBC on Monday.

"There's a lot of momentum in the system so I think you don't really see the big impact of it in terms of output until the second half of the year," Yergin, the global information and analytics firm's vice chairman, said in an interview with "Street Signs."

That said, every company is now looking at what it can slow down, cut or postpone, he said. "The knives are already out."

U.S. crude settled up $2.85, or 4.3 percent, at $69 a barrel on Monday, rebounding from a five-year low.

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Benchmark Brent crude was last up over $72 per barrel. It had fallen by almost $3 earlier to shy of $64, a low since July 2009.

File photo: Rig hands thread together drilling pipe at a hydraulic fracturing on the Marcellus shale rock formation in Pennsylvania.
Ty Wright | Bloomberg | Getty Images
File photo: Rig hands thread together drilling pipe at a hydraulic fracturing on the Marcellus shale rock formation in Pennsylvania.

Oil is still down about 10 percent since OPEC decided Thursday not to cut output. Both Brent and U.S. crude have fallen for five months in a row, marking the longest losing streak in oil since the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

Yergin doesn't think the cartel's move was directly aimed at U.S. producers, even though the surge in U.S. oil production seemed to take the world by surprise.

"The Gulf countries in OPEC have a lot else at stake in their relationship with the United States," he explained. "I think what has happened by their saying let the market take care of this, what they've really done is said the high-cost oil, the oil with a lot of debt, is at risk."

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The big producing nations, like Saudi Arabia, also have their eyes on neighbors like Iran and Iraq.

"The Saudis and the others said we are just not going to cut back and let others take our market share," Yergin said.

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As for those who thought U.S. oil production was a bubble, they were clearly mistaken, he said.

"It's not a bubble. It's really a whole new thing redefining the global oil market," Yergin said. "It's happened so fast that really the market was in a sense taken by surprise by it."

Reuters contributed to this story.