(TELEGRAPH) — Total, France’s biggest oil and gas company, will pay $2.32bn (£1.5bn) for a 25pc stake in a shale deposit in the east of Ohio.

Meanwhile, Sinopec, China’s largest energy company, plans to invest $2.26bn to become a partner in developing five natural gas and oil fields with US producer Devon Energy.

US, European, Chinese and Indian companies are scrambling to secure a slice of America’s shale gas deposits, which experts have forecast have the potential to become a central part of the world’s energy supply over the next half century as oil reserves dwindle. A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers last year estimated that the exploration of shale deposits could generate 1m jobs in the US, a prospect that has been seized on by its supporters.

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