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The Syncrude oil sands extraction facility is reflected in a lake reclaimed from an old mine near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta

MARK RALSTON

China is about to ramp up its exposure to the oil sands, with Bloomberg reporting Monday that China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., Asia's biggest refiner, will drop $4-billion for a 9 per cent stake in Syncrude Canada Ltd.

Sinopec is expected to grab the Syncrude position that ConocoPhillips put up for sale last October.

The move will raise eyebrows in the oil patch, as industry experts all but consigned the ConocoPhillips stake to Calgary-based Canadian Oil Sands Trust, which owns 36 per cent of Syncrude. The oil sands company claims 5.1 billion barrels of proven and probable oil reserves. The operator of this massive pioneer in the sector is Exxon Mobil subsidiary Imperial Oil.

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If Bloomberg's reporters in Hong Kong have this one right, the Sinopec investment will be the latest in a series of acquisitions in Alberta by state-owned Asian companies.

Last year, for example, PetroChina purchased majority control of two properties owned by Athabasca Oil Sands for $1.3-billion.

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