u.s. shale oil boom
According to Bloomberg News, Chinese energy companies, both state-run and private, are seeking to invest more than $40 billion in U.S. shale energy.
Readers may remember the Chinese oil and gas producer CNOOC Limited's (NYSE: CEO) $19 billion bid for U.S.-based refiner Unocal, which was rejected by federal regulators in 2005. (Unocal later merged with Chevron Corp.)
Although CNOOC was recently able to complete a $15.1 billion purchase of Nexen Inc., a Canadian oil and gas company with assets in the Gulf of Mexico, outright takeovers of U.S. energy assets by Chinese companies are probably still not welcome.
Chastened by its experience with Unocal, CNOOC has not attempted to buy any U.S. company outright.
However, after developing a relationship with Chesapeake Energy Corp, (NYSE: CHK), CNOOC has purchased stakes in specific Chesapeake projects in Colorado and Wyoming.
"They didn't come over here and try to buy Chesapeake," Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon told The Wall Street Journal. "They came over here to buy a minority, non-operating interest in an asset and not take the oil and gas home."
So why do the Chinese want to invest billions of dollars to fund shale oil and shale gas projects in the United States when it won't be able to export the energy products back to China?
The Next U.S. Shale Oil Boom Could Be in California
The U.S. shale oil boom has hit Texas and North Dakota - and is now looking to take over the Golden State of California.
California's Monterey Shale formation covers 1,750 square miles from southern to central California and is believed to contain more shale oil than North Dakota's Bakken and Texas's Eagle Ford combined.
The potential of the Monterey Shale formation is enormous. According to IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, Monterey may hold about 400 billion barrels of oil - roughly half the amount of conventional oil that Saudi Arabia has.
The energy research director at IHS, Stephen Trammel, told CNNMoney, "Four-hundred-billion barrels, that doesn't escape anyone in this [oil] business."
Even if that is an overly optimistic estimate, there is enough recoverable oil there to make it worthwhile.