The firm sees more room for further savings. A recent contract to complete four Sichuan region wells signed by oilfield services firm Honghua Group suggests costs could fall by another 20 percent compared to 2017 levels, according to Wood Mackenzie.
"In terms of technology, the Chinese NOCs actually have built up their learning curves in a relatively short period," Yang said, referring to national oil companies.
"They have explored a unique practice in China, compact well sites and hydraulic fracturing techniques that suit China's geology."
Hydraulic fracturing is the key to unlocking oil and gas from shale formations. It involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and some chemicals into wells to create fractures in rock formations, which allow oil and gas to flow.
China faces challenges both above and below ground due to the nature of its shale resources.
The country's shale basins are mostly located in remote, mountainous regions that lack a network of pipelines and other infrastructure. All of that makes prepping well sites and shipping gas a costly endeavor.
The Chinese shale formations themselves tend to be relatively deep. That means Chinese firms typically have to drill deeper than U.S. frackers, which raises costs and makes it tougher to maintain well integrity during drilling, Wood Mackenzie says.
The nation also lacks several things that drove the U.S. shale boom: open markets that promote competition, a network of small frackers that push innovation and locally available expertise.
As for whether a partnership with U.S. companies could turbocharge development, Yang says that sort of cooperation is certainly possible, but it's no cure-all because China's shale landscape is so different than America's.