You won't see them seated with world leaders nor attending black-tie political functions, but modern-day explorers can be just as near and dear to a nation's interests as those from the Age of Exploration.

The growth of emerging economies has made each nation's ability to secure meaningful oil resources all the more salient. The discovery of the massive Tupi oil field last year by Petrobras (NYSE:PBR) will prove a critical moment in Brazil's growth story. Through a steady stream of new discoveries and overseas acquisitions, China's CNOOC (NYSE:CEO) seeks to secure a new silk road to China's continued growth.

CNOOC managed to increase oil production in the third quarter by an impressive 15.2% over the corresponding 2007 quarter, reaching nearly 550,000 BOE of daily production. Two new projects came online during the period, while the company identified four new oil and gas fields off shore of China. Realizing oil prices that were 59% higher at $106.94 per barrel, CNOOC grew revenue by 69%.

The quarterly release omits net earnings figures, so Fools must wait for year-end to see exactly how these results translate to the bottom line. Given CNOOC's minimal exposure to refining operations that have plagued fellow Chinese oil giants like PetroChina (NYSE:PTR) and Sinopec (NYSE:SNP), though, I don't anticipate Fools will be disappointed. However, with oil presently fetching less than $65 per barrel, the fourth quarter could be somewhat challenging for earnings. While I fully expect oil to resume its bull run, predicting the near-term timing of such a move is pointless and decidedly un-Foolish. Since CNOOC shares have already dropped 63% from their high from this time last year, I am pleased to suggest that any near-term weakness is already priced in.

As my Foolish colleague David Smith pointed out earlier this month, CNOOC appears set to purchase a substantial stake from Marathon Oil (NYSE:MRO) in the prolific Block 32 deepwater oilfield near Angola. Total (NYSE:TOT) is the appointed operator of this major joint venture project, permitting stakeholders like ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and Marathon to employ their exploration resources elsewhere.

With an aggressive combination of overseas acquisitions and continued success in exploring offshore from China, I believe CNOOC is steadily growing into a global energy powerhouse. For Fools willing to wait for oil prices to rebound, I think this Motley Fool Global Gains recommendation may provide a silk road to long-term gains.

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Fool contributor Christopher Barker captains yachts and writes about stocks. He can also be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly within the CAPS community under the username TMFSinchiruna. He owns shares of CNOOC and PetroChina. CNOOC is a Global Gains recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.