PetroChina, the listed arm of China’s state-owned energy giant China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), has just discovered new reserves at an oilfield of more than 1 billion tons of oil, a significant boost to the nation’s current oil reserves which will reduce dependence on imports, an expert said Monday.

According to the Global Times, PetroChina discovered the new reserves at the Qingcheng oilfield in the Ordos Basin, the company said in a filing it published on September 29.

The oilfield’s added proven reserves stand at 358 million tons, while estimated reserves could reach 693 million tons — a potential game changer for China’s oil industry.

Li Luguang, a vice president of PetroChina, said the Qingcheng oilfield is expected to produce 640,000 tons of oil this year, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

This is a huge addition to China’s current recoverable oil reserves, which amount to about 2 billion tons in total so far, said Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University.

Because of relatively sparse oil reserves domestically, China has to rely on imports. China imported about 462 million tons of crude oil in 2018, up 10.1% year-on-year, customs data showed.

However, Lin pointed out that China’s demand for oil is huge — about 600 million tons annually, due to increasing car consumption, and therefore the dependence on imports is hard to shift in the short term, the report said.

“To fundamentally solve the problem, the government should further push the construction of public transportation systems, such as subways, to reduce the public’s addiction to cars,” Lin told the Global Times.

CNPC also reported great progress in shale gas exploration. The company reported some 740.97 billion cubic meters of added proven shale gas reserves in the Sichuan Basin in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

The discoveries reflect its actions to safeguard China’s energy security, the company stated in the filing.

Lin said that few domestic companies are willing to explore shale gas because of high costs. “The government can increase subsidy levels to encourage domestic extraction,” Lin said.