“Oil on Greenland would be a disaster,” he told the Financial Times in an interview. “A leak would do too much damage to the image of the company.”
Though it is active in the Arctic, Total is only drilling for natural gas in Russian waters — an activity de Margerie justified as safer than oil drilling.
Many of Total’s competitors — Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, Italy’s ENI and Norway’s Statoil — have Arctic oil drilling deals in place in Russian, Alaskan and Greenland waters.
The dash for Arctic oil resources has already thrown some hurdles in the path of oil firms.
The Financial Times noted United Kingdom-based Cairn Energy spent $1 billion looking for oil near Greenland, but found nothing in commercial volume.
And in the United States, Shell tried to enter the Alaskan Arctic region first, but damaged safety equipment and a looming deadline to exit oil-bearing zone forced it to shelve its Arctic plans until 2013.
That hiccup pushed Statoil to delay its Alaskan offshore drilling earlier this month by one year, pegging it for a 2015 start date. It said it would monitor Shell’s progress in the region before it enters the area.
The Obama administration revamped oversight and strengthened drilling standards after the BP incident, saying that makeover was necessary to prevent a repeat.
Republicans have said new red tape from the regulatory overhaul prevented Shell from entering the Arctic with enough time to perform its drilling operations.
Environmentalists have applauded the new rules. They have pushed back against Arctic drilling, saying that an oil spill would be disastrous for the Arctic ecosystem.