SHANGHAI -(Dow Jones)- China's Cnooc Ltd. (CEO) is buying into several shale oil and gas leases in the U.S. owned by Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK) for US$570 million in cash, in the latest move by a Chinese oil company to learn a technology that has transformed the U.S. gas industry.

Also, Cnooc will fund two-thirds of Chesapeake's share of drilling and other costs up to maximum of US$697 million, the two companies said in a statement Monday.

The deal follows a similar Cnooc-Chesapeake agreement in October 2010 under which the Chinese company bought one-third of Chesapeake's 600,000-acre Eagle Ford, Texas, shale oil and gas project for US$1.08 billion--a pact which was the first major investment by a China state-run company in onshore energy reserves in the U.S.

Chinese companies had until then been reluctant to invest in U.S. energy reserves, following Cnooc's 2005 bid to take over California-based Unocal Corp. being blocked by a nationalist political uproar.

However, these new Cnooc investments appear to have political cover, given global efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and joint China-U.S. efforts to promote cleaner energy.

The project will accelerate commercial opportunities for the development of shale gas resources in China, furthering the objectives of the U.S.-China Shale Gas Resource Initiative announced by the White House on Nov. 17, 2009, the two said in a statement.

Chesapeake chief executive Aubrey McClendon said the agreement "will provide the capital necessary to accelerate drilling of this large domestic oil and natural gas resource, resulting in a reduction of our country's oil imports over time, (and) the creation of thousands of high-paying jobs in the U.S."

Cnooc chairman Fu Chengyu described it as being "mutually beneficial to both parties as well as for both Sino-US energy industries."

The deal involves Cnooc, China's third-largest oil and gas producer, taking a 33.3% stake in Chesapeake leases covering 800,000 acres in the Denver-Julesburg and Powder River Basins in northeast Colorado and southeast Wyoming states.

"We don't see any U.S. regulatory concerns judging by the prior approval of the Eagle Ford deal, as Cnooc is only acquiring minority stakes, and the oil/gas produced will remain in the U.S. supply system," said Mirae Asset management analyst Gordon Kwan.

Shale gas is trapped in tight rock formations and previously this had proved very difficult to extract. U.S. companies have now developed technologies to crack open these formations, making output of the gas economical, and in so doing they have transformed the country's energy profile.

Rapid growth in shale gas output in the U.S. has displaced imported liquefied natural gas, making more LNG available for other countries and keeping a lid on U.S. domestic and international gas prices.

Attention is now also being turned to the billions of barrels of oil locked in similar geological structures.

Both China and neighbor India, which are heavily dependent on imported oil and gas, are hoping to replicate the success seen in the U.S. with their own shale reserves, but to do this need access to that technology.

The International Energy Agency estimates China has reserves of 26 trillion cubic meters of shale gas, which it hasn't been able to access due to its lack of technical know-how.

While investing in U.S. shale deposits, China has allowed U.S. and European companies into its tightly controlled onshore acreage.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB.LN) and PetroChina Co. (PTR) have been jointly developing shale-gas resources in Sichuan province while China Petrochemical Corp. is cooperating with BP PLC (BP.LN) and Chevron Corp. (CVX) in shale gas projects.

Under another recent agreement, China Sinochem Group Corp. and the U.S.-based Hess Corp. (HES) will cooperate in onshore shale oil and gas exploration in China. Hess also agreed with China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (SNP) earlier this month on a joint study on shale oil reserves at China's second-largest Shengli oil field.

Indian companies, often laggards behind China in foreign energy investments, got into the U.S. shale sector ahead of their Chinese peers.

Reliance Industries (500325.BY), India's biggest private oil refiner, took a 40% stake in U.S.-based Atlas Energy Inc.'s (ATLS) Marcellus Shale acreage in a deal valued at $1.7 billion in April 2010 and then in June purchased a 45% stake in Pioneer Natural Resources Co.'s (PXD) Eagle Ford shale natural gas asset in Texas for $1.3 billion.

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