With its commitment to spend more than $2 billion developing hard-to-tap oil and gas deposits in southern Texas, China’s Cnooc Ltd. could get the tools to unlock potentially lucrative energy deposits in its own backyard.

Cnooc’s deal with Chesapeake Energy Corp. to take a minority stake in the project also could provide a test of U.S. tolerance for Chinese investment in the U.S. energy sector, five years after Cnooc’s bid for the former Unocal Corp. faltered over political concerns.

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