Shale Just Part of the Draw for International Investments

America's potential oil and gas growth is so great, predicts Professor Amy Myers Jaffe of Rice University's Baker Institute, that by the 2020s the capital of energy will likely have shifted back to the Western Hemisphere, where it was prior to the ascendancy of Middle Eastern mega-suppliers such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in the 1960s.

Statoil is just one such company to get in on the game, with their 330-foot-tall, 60,000-ton semisubmersible drill ship Maersk Developer; 150 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, targeting Move up http://i.forbesimg.com t Move down a prospect called Kilchurn, 25,000 feet down. In June Statoil completed the Kilchurn well at a cost of some $120 million, but has not revealed results.

The Developer rig is similar to Transocean's Deepwater Horizon, but this ship is newer and more modern—it's equipped with more safety precautions and redundant systems. The Developer was the first rig to meet all the new standards required by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management—because Statoil already had those practices in place.

"We haven't had to change the way we do business," says Jason Nye, head of Statoil's Gulf of Mexico operations.

Total, Statoil has more than $20 billion worth of oil and gas assets in the U.S. and has bet still more that drilling into America is the company's best bet for growth-Statoil CEO Helge Lund has big plans to increase its output from a current 2.1 million barrels per day to more than 2.5 million by 2020.

The U.S. will be the biggest driver of that growth, with production planned to more than triple from 150,000 barrels per day today to 500,000.

"There can be no doubt that America is in the midst of an energy renaissance," says global energy guru Joseph Stanislaw, who now works with Deloitte.

Soaring oil output from the Bakken Shale fields, coupled with increased deepwater output primarily from the Gulf of Mexico, has pushed up U.S. domestic oil production by 12% since 2008. This is the first increase in a quarter-century and has confounded predictions that domestic output was set on an inexorable downtrend.

In addition to Statoil, China's Cnooc has put up $2 billion for joint ventures with Chesapeake Energy and another $2.1 billion to dig into Canada's oil sands. Sinopec has done a $2.5 billion shale JV with Devon Energy and bought Canada's Daylight Energy for $2.1 billion. Malaysia's Petronas is closing on a $5.35 billion takeover of Canada's Progress Energy. And Korea's KNOC invested more than $9 billion in U.S. finds.