While natural gas production in North America continues to sprout, as companies increasingly work in unconventional plays -- primarily shale formations -- there's another gas game being played in Asia that clearly has captured the attention of most members of Big Oil.

Chevron (NYSE: CVX) -- the second-largest of the U.S.-based major integrated oil and gas producers -- has just announced that it's figuratively putting the pedal to the metal in a large gas project in the Gulf of Thailand.

The company's $3.1 billion Platong II project was to have begun contributing gas to the Thai economy in 2012, but Chevron, which owns nearly 70% of the project, along with its partners Mitsui Oil Exploration and Thailand's state-owned PTT PCL now believe that the project can become operational during the second half of this year.

Reducing the greenhouse grime
With greenhouse gasses rising across Asia, the developing countries in the area are rapidly increasing the percentage of their energy production that comes from gas, which is far cleaner burning than coal or oil. Indeed, in Thailand, for instance, about a third of the demand for electricity is now met by natural gas. And in the region as a whole, with the likes of China and India rapidly ramping up their demand, the consumption of gas could jump by about two-thirds to about 463 million metric tons from the 2008 base year through 2020.

Chevron, however, is hardly a Johnny-Come-Lately to Thailand's natural gas scene. Platong II will join the company's operations in 14 blocks in the Gulf of Thailand. At the same time, given the size of China's economy, Chevron -- along with ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) and its other peers -- has undertaken a yeoman's effort to increase its presence in China.

But before we move beyond Thailand and gas's role in the country's surging economy, you need to know that Platong II is expected to be able to crank out 420 million cubic feet a day of natural gas once it is able to produce all-out. That production would represent about 10 percent of Thailand's total demand.

Beyond that, Platong II isn't the only expected major event on Thailand's natural gas calendar this year. The country also expects that the second half of 2011 will see liquefied natural gas begin to arrive at its first import terminal. The terminal likely will be completed in June, and soon thereafter will receive about 20% of its ultimate annual capacity of 5 million metric tons of LNG.

The Gorgon general
Traveling in a wider swath around Asia, you'll likely find Chevron active in other natural gas venues, including eventually the $4 billion project it has under consideration offshore Vietnam. Obviously of more importance, however, is Western Australia's massive liquefied natural gas program, the Gorgon Gas Project. Chevron has a half interest in Gorgon, which it is developing with its major partners Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A). In addition to owning Gorgon's largest portion, Chevron is also the project's operator.

The massive undertaking (which is believed to contain 40 trillion cubic feet of gas) will include development of the Greater Gorgon gas fields, construction of an LNG plant, and the placement of subsea gathering equipment. It has been estimated that the entire program could rack up capital expenditures in excess of A$50 billion before it discharges its first LNG in 2014.

When completed, Gorgon will be capable of producing about 15 million tons of LNG per year. The partners are each marketing their own shares of the gas separately. Exxon, for instance, has inked a massive $41 billion contract with PetroChina (NYSE: PTR), while the threesome has also reached agreements with buyers in places like Japan, India, and North America.

But don't come away with the conclusion that Chevron is the only one of the majors that has taken the bit in its teeth in Asia. Just last month, for instance, following lengthy negotiations, ExxonMobil signed an agreement with Indonesia's state-controlled oil company, Pertamina, to combine forces in the development of that country's big Natuna gas field.

Because Pertamina comes up short vis-a-vis technical expertise, it plans to maintain a 40% interest in the huge field, while apportioning the other 60% to Exxon and ultimately other partners. Companies Pertamina has considered adding to the majority stake with ExxonMobil included Chevron (of course), along with France's Total (NYSE: TOT), Norway's Statoil (NYSE: STO), and Italy's Eni (NYSE: E).

It's a gas at home, too.
But none of this is to plant the idea that the majors have scuttled their gas-finding activity in North America's unconventional plays. Obviously, Exxon has revved up its attention to gas on our continent, as indicated by its $31 billion acquisition of XTO last year. That deal propelled the king of Big Oil to the big enchilada position among U.S. gas producers. Also, in November Chevron announced a $3.2 billion purchase of Atlas Energy, an active player in the Marcellus Shale.

Chevron: Go where you wanna go.
By now you should have adopted the notion that clean-burning, domestically plentiful natural gas has a far brighter future than its currently deflated U.S. price would indicate. If so, it's a concept that's escalating on both sides of the world. It's also a notion that Chevron will let you play in an increasing number of promising venues.   

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies named above. Chevron, Statoil, and Total are Motley Fool Income Investor selections. The Fool owns shares of ExxonMobil. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies named. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.