China’s state-owned oil giant China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) finalized an agreement on Tuesday with France’s Total SA (NYSE:TOT), one of the world’s six supermajor oil companies, and Tethys Petroleum (TSE:TPL), an independent oil and gas company operating in Central Asia, to develop petroleum assets in the central Asian republic of Tajikistan.

The partnership cited China as a key future export market. China’s state-owned oil corporations have been keen to diversify their energy supplies through investments in domestic and foreign oil and gas assets, according to Wall Street Journal.

The companies have also been developing and constructing a global network of refineries, pipelines and receiving terminals.

An oil rig of the Great Wall Drilling Company, a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC). REUTERS/Desmond Boylan

Tethys has operations not only in Tajikisintan but in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan as well. The company first announced plans to bring in partners for its Bokhtar project in Tajikistan in October.

In December, a draft farm-out agreement and production-sharing pact with China National Oil and Gas Exploration and Development Corp., a subsidiary of CNPC, and France’s Total was revealed that concerns a property in Tajikistan. According to the deal, each company will take one-third of the stake of the property, which Tethys has said may contain as much as 3.22 trillion cubic meters of gas and 8.5 billion barrels of oil.

The agreement was finalized on Tuesday in the Tajik capital city of Dushanbe, after the Tajik government gave its go-ahead.

"We believe the Bokhtar PSC is a world-class asset with enormous potential," Tethys Executive Chairman David Robson told the Wall Street Journal. The first phase of exploration will cost $80 million-$100 million, and if that is successful, investment up to 2020 will be in the billions of dollars.

To sweeten the deal, the Tajik government has added another 1,186 square kilometers of highly prospective acreage not previously included in the agreement, which could add up to 10 percent to the original estimate of the project’s reserve, Robson added.

In a statement, Total Exploration & Production Senior Vice President Michael Borrell said the agreement "positions Total in one of the world's most prolific gas basins."

Currently, Tajikistan imports more than 90 percent of the oil and gas it consumes, and the government is keen to develop domestic resources, a large portion of which lies in the southwest region of the country, in an extension of the Amu-Darya basin that feeds huge gas fields in neighboring Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, the Wall Street Journal reported.

This deal will support China’s aim to boost the share of natural gas in its energy mix to 10 percent by 2020, up from 2010, when it was below 5 percent, in turn cutting the country’s dependency on coal, which meets 70 percent of its current energy needs.

This is not the first time CNPC has looked to Central Asia for importing oil and gas. In 2010, through a Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-China pipeline, CNPC has begun importing fuel to the industrialized eastern and southern regions of China.

"Tajikistan's reserves could meet China's natural gas consumption for 24 years. I think in terms of the early development, it will probably be three years away, and the full development in terms of export of gas, maybe by about 2020," Robson said.

In addition to this pact, CNPC is also close to completing twin pipelines through Myanmar to southwestern China, capable of carrying 440,000 barrels a day of overseas crude and 12 billion cubic meters of Myanmar’s natural gas a year. Another project, still in the planning stages, is to pipe in gas from Russian fields.

Another major Chinese oil and gas producer, Cnooc Ltd. (NYSE:CEO), has also moved to acquire foreign oil and gas producing companies in recent years, including a purchase of Canada’s Nexen Inc. (NYSE:NXY), for $15.1 billion, and a joint development with Canada’s Husky Energy Inc. (TSE:HSE), for three deep-water gas fields under the South China Sea, the Wall Street Journal reported.