State-owned PetroChina has been splashing its cash this week–$1.6 billion to buy out BHP Billiton’s stake in the controversial Australian offshore Browse liquefied natural gas project, and $1.2 billion for a 49.9% stake in a joint venture with Encana to develop the Canadian company’s Duvernay shale oil and gas field in Alberta, with a further $1 billion of investment promised over the next four years.
Chinese energy companies acquiring overseas production assets is scarcely news. They have now spent approaching $30 billion this year alone on oil and gas fields. PetroChina’s two deals look like chump change against, CNOOC’s $18 billion acquisition of Nexen, the largest Chinese overseas acquisition and which has only recently been approved by the Canadian government.
What strikes this Bystander as interesting about the two latest PetroChina deals is the expertise as much as the assets that they bring. China has deepwater, natural gas and shale fields in abundance, but not much experience or expertise in exploiting them. CNOOC got its first deepwater drilling platform into the South China Sea only in May this year. Acquiring the know-how has become a priority. The Duvernay shales, in particular, are geologically similar to some of China’s deep shales. Learning how to tap them is something PetroChina can not only take to the bank, but back home, too.