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An oil refinery of China's Sinopec, in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province. The company has announced plans to invest in oil drilling in Ohio. - 

Steve Chiotakis: Sinopec -- one of China's largest oil companies -- says it's going to spend billions of dollars on a partnership to drill for natural gas in Ohio. That's where this week, seismologists blamed drilling for a rare magnitude 4.0 earthquake. So why are Chinese oil companies entering into one of the most controversial environmental debates in the United States?

Marketplace China bureau chief Rob Schmitz explains.


Rob Schmitz: Natural gas wells where fracking is used to get at the gas are rare in China.

Nate Taplin:I think there's less than a hundred wells in China, whereas in the states there are thousands and thousands.

Energy Analyst Nate Taplin of Dragonomics says Chinese energy companies like Sinopec want to learn more about fracking from U.S. energy companies because they'd like to build thousands and thousands of wells, too.

Taplin:They're just at the beginning of this process, and they don't really have the technical expertise at all. So I think that's the main motivation for them, most likely.

The main motivation for Sinopec to spend two and a half billion dollars on its deal with Devon. If China had the right technology, the U.S. government estimates it could tap into more gas reserves than the U.S. and Canada combined.

Learning the finer points of fracking will help China exploit these reserves while relying less on importing natural gas from other countries. China's government is even offering energy companies incentives to begin fracking as soon as possible.

In Shanghai, I'm Rob Schmitz, for Marketplace.

Follow Rob Schmitz at @rob_schmitz