France's Total said on Friday it would spend C$1.75 billion ($1.8 billion) to forge a partnership with Suncor Energy in Canada's oil sands, the latest foreign push into a booming new source of oil wealth.
The French oil giant and Canada's largest energy company announced deals encompassing three projects in Alberta, where Asian investors have already been pouring funds into tarry deposits which have opened a new frontier in oil supplies.
Total said it would buy 19.2 percent of Suncor's interest in the Fort Hills project, raising to 39.2 percent its stake in the mining project. Suncor, with a 40.8 percent stake, will remain operator of the venture near Calgary.
Suncor will acquire 36.75 percent of Total's interest in the Joslyn project, where operator Total will retain 38.25 percent.
Total is buying 49 percent of the Suncor-operated Voyageur project near Fort McMurray, where construction stopped in 2008.
Suncor and Total have agreed to a joint commitment to develop Fort Hills and Voyageur in parallel so that both come on stream early 2016, the companies said in a statement.
The moves came as Suncor unveiled a 10-year growth strategy including plans to increase oil production.
Total's deal with Suncor follows its C$1.5 acquisition in July of UTS Energy Corp, a takeover that gave Total a 20-percent stake in Fort Hills.
Total, the fifth-largest Western oil company by market value, already has significant investments in Canada, where it plans to spend as much as C$20 billion over the next 15 years.
Technical challenges mean the cost of producing the tarry bitumen trapped in sand and clay is high, making investments in new projects feasible only if oil prices are at about $80 a barrel. Oil was at $88.05 a barrel early on Friday.
Alberta's oil sands are seen as the largest potential source of crude outside the Middle East and are the target of billions of dollars of spending by the world's oil industry. Chinese, South Korean and Thai investors have contributed to the Canadian tar rush with a wave of acquisitions.
But developments in the region are bitterly opposed by environmental groups concerned about rising greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution.
Total has interests in the Surmont project, with ConocoPhillips, and in the Northern Lights project through its 2008 acquisition of Synenco Energy.
Total shares were up 0.4 percent at 40.05 euros by 1000 GMT, giving the company a market value of just under 94 billion euros ($125.1 billion).