Russia, meanwhile, has surprised the market on several fronts, managing to keep production growing for now even with super-low prices.
"The Russian view is they will pump as much oil as they can all of the time and deal with the financial consequences after," said Chris Weafer, senior founding partner at Eurasia consulting firm Macro-Advisory. "They will never voluntarily cut production or reduce supply in order to manage oil prices. That is simply not going to happen. It's out of the question. ... Occasionally you get speculation Russia is talking to OPEC. That's cosmetic. It's never going to happen."
As in the U.S., Russia's oil producers have improved efficiency by using new technologies to improve production for some of their old wells. But Russia has been hampered in developing new Arctic, deep-water or shale projects because of the financial sanctions placed on it by the West after it invaded Ukraine.
"This year, oil is up 1.5 percent despite the sanctions. What we hear is the companies are having to deal with the fallout from sanctions, but it's not the lack of access to engineering services or spare parts," said Weafer. "The big problem they all have to deal with is the financial sanctions ... oil companies are having to pay down external debt, and they're not able to replace that." External debt was $740 billion in January 2014, and it's now around $500 billion, he said.
"They've been forced to deleverage across the board," Weafer said. But because the companies are becoming more efficient, he does not anticipate a big drop in oil production.
"Technology and efficiency have been (big factors), and there's no reason to expect there will be a big falloff next year. If sanctions stay in place for another 12 months, you wouldn't expect Russian oil production to change too much. There's speculation there'd be a big drop down of 500,000, 700,000 (barrels a day). That's still not in the cards. At worst, it could be a slippage of a couple hundred thousand. The efficiency gains have kicked in."
But another factor has kicked in as well, and that has proven the key for Russian production. The Russian central bank's policy of letting the ruble float with oil prices has helped keep costs down.
"Russians have said they can't cut. Oil and natural gas has provided about half of their budget but they've been insulated ironically by the fall in the value of the ruble," said Yergin. "The dollar price of oil may be down. So is the value of the ruble. So domestically, it hasn't crimped their spending as much. This has been very good for their service industry. What has been circumscribed is the role of Western companies, but that's not because of the fall in oil prices. That's because of the sanctions."