A number of oil analysts expect the next big drop, and possible bottom in prices, to come when the U.S. refining industry shuts down some capacity for maintenance between early September and early November. That industry has been processing about 17 million barrels a day, and refining maintenance would take 1 million to 1.5 million barrels off the run rate.
One surprising factor has been that U.S. shale producers have proven more agile with costs and technology than expected, and U.S. production is off its high but fairly steady at the 9.3 million barrel a day level, according to the latest EIA weekly data.
The agency also reported a sharp jump in U.S. imports to 8 million barrels a day in the past week, from 7.6 million barrels the week earlier.
"That was one of the most surprising statistics this week," said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates. "The U.S. remains an outlet for countries trying to maintain their market share of crude oil sales."
Citigroup and other firms have changed their price forecasts to show a more prolonged downturn in prices that could ultimately cause a shakeout among producers. Lee said the factors that affect producers include production costs, storage costs and financial flows.
The swift drop in prices makes the financing environment more dicey for exploration and production companies this fall. In October, banks are set to review the credit lines of companies in the oil patch, and they are expected to clamp down.
"We're slowing down a little bit and a lot of investments have been canceled or postponed or delayed," said Lipow. "It's just going to take some time to soak up the oversupply situation as the market anticipates the return of Iranian oil."
Read MoreIran creates uncertainty in oil market
When it comes to costs of production, Russia and Saudi Arabia have a big advantage over the U.S. Saudi Arabia's production is less than $10 a barrel, while Russia also has some production under $10, according to Citigroup.
U.S. shale producers, meanwhile, have varied costs depending on where they are located. Some of the high-cost production is already shut in, and Citigroup sees a cluster of production in the $30 per barrel area. Analysts and traders who took the CNBC Oil Survey last week were split on the break-even price for frackers, with 43 percent of the participants saying it was $45 to $55 per barrel.
Read MoreCNBC Survey: Oil prices seen below break even for frackers
While Russia and Saudi are lower-price producers, their economies are much more reliant on the contributions from oil.
"Their (Saudi Arabia's) fiscal break-even price of oil is hard to measure exactly. Some people peg it at $80 or $90. That's how much they need the price to be to balance their budget ... so they need to cut back spending," said Lee. "By raising production, they do grow their revenues and bring down their break-even price. ... The other thing is they did not borrow and have massive borrowing power. ... We do think they are trimming costs."
Citigroup late last week revised down its forecast for oil prices, with a base case for $54 Brent this year. Citi analysts see $50 for Brent in the current quarter and $47 in the fourth quarter. They expect those price levels to stick through the first half of next year, with an average $53 per barrel Brent price for 2016.
For WTI, Citigroup expects the price this year and next year to be $48 per barrel, with the average third-quarter price $45 and the fourth-quarter price $39 per barrel. Citi gives a 55 percent probability to this base case.
Lee said Saudi Arabia is going head to head with other Mideast producers for share in Asia, where there is a 20 million to 25 million barrel a day oil deficit.
"A lot of the focus is on China. The Saudis are competing with the UAE, Iraq and Russia," he said. Saudi Arabia lost its spot as top exporter to both China and India in the spring, and more recently in Japan, according to Citigroup.
"That's the battleground within the battleground," said Lee of Asia.
For that reason, production may stay elevated as producers drive product into markets where they would like to build market share.
Lipow said one factor that could change things quickly would be an unanticipated geopolitical event that affects oil supply or threatens it.
"This is a type of market that has completely discounted any potential geopolitical risk," he said. "You're not even hearing anyone talking about that. The market is so beside itself in bearishness, that's not even in the market's thinking."