China's energy demand is growing at the fastest pace among major economies even as aging onshore fields fail to keep pace.
China plans to cap its crude imports at 61 percent of total consumption by 2015, according to an energy research paper released by China's cabinet in October. The country's reliance on imported crude was 56.4 percent in 2012, according the National Development and Reform Commission.
Sinopec's purchase of Chesapeake Energy's stake in a shale oil field in Oklahoma announced on Feb. 25 gave the Beijing- based company drilling rights to a field twice the size of New York City for less than one-third of the value estimated by Chesapeake for the asset. The same day Cnooc closed its deal to buy Canada's Nexen.
Cnooc was barred from controlling the Gulf of Mexico oilfields under U.S. terms for its approval of the takeover, people familiar with the matter said this month. The U.S. is officially open to Chinese investment, a position that has been affirmed by President Barack Obama.
Eoin Treacy's view Chins has been in the market for extraction technology and access to strategic resources for more than a decade. This is unlikely to change as its economy modernises and as per capita demand trends higher.
With shale assets it appears to be following a similar strategy to that which it took with industrial metal assets following the credit crisis. In 2009 a considerable number of resources companies had fallen into difficulties because metal prices had collapsed, the prices they had paid for resources were in retrospect too high and bank funding evaporated. Chinese companies were flush with cash and were welcomed as investors, where once they would not have been allowed to participate.
The rush to secure leases that characterised the shale oil and gas sector over the last few years has put a number of companies in difficult positions. China's desire on this occasion is the same as it was a few years ago and it can gain access for the same reasons as were evident in 2009.
This should help to facilitate the process of consolidation that is currently underway in the shale oil and gas sector.