The shale gas boom is heading east. The Chinese government recently opened up bidding on the country's energy-rich shale formations. PetroChina (NYSE: PTR), China Petroleum and Chemical Corp (NYSE: SNP), and Shaanxi Yangchang Petroleum Group are among the companies competing for the right to develop the land.

The auction only encompasses Chinese companies. However, a government official said that foreign companies are welcome to "join hands" with the winners. Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK) may do just that.

Chesapeake has already teamed up with China to develop several prominent U.S. gas fields. Over the last year, state-owned Chinese oil giant CNOOC (NYSE: CEO) acquired a 33% stake in Chesapeake's oil and gas assets in both the Eagle Ford and Niobrara shale. The deal provided Chesapeake a much-needed cash cushion and gave CNOOC access to some valuable resource-rich real estate. But the real value of both deals extends beyond the land itself.

CNOOC is getting a crash course in fracking, a drilling process the Chinese must master in order to tap their own shale gas reserves. And Chesapeake is establishing itself as China's top shale gas guru. The complexity of tapping shale means China will likely need the company's help.

To this point, Chesapeake is the only company partnering with the Chinese on U.S. shale gas projects. This makes Chesapeake the likely choice for any future partnerships on Chinese soil.   

The bottom line
The Chinese are rushing to extract domestic shale gas to meet its own skyrocketing energy demand. If they seek Chesapeake's help, the company could enjoy access to some of the world's most coveted gas formations. That prospect might make Chesapeake a great stock to own as we enter the golden age of natural gas.

Fool contributor Adam J. Crawford does not own shares in any company mentioned in this article. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Chesapeake Energy. 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. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.