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Total SA, Shell diverge on Arctic drilling

By Steve Gelsi, MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — Total SA talked down the prospects for oil drilling in the Arctic, while Shell reiterated its plans to develop crude exploration off the coast of Alaska on Wednesday, as energy stocks fell

Total SA TOT -1.71%  Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie said drilling in the Arctic may be too risky to the environment, a rare instance of an industry executive speaking against exploring for oil in the region, according to a report by the Financial Times on Wednesday.

Oil on Greenland would be a disaster,” he said in an interview with the newspaper. “A leak would do too much damage to the image of the company.”

His comments came after Royal Dutch Shell RDS.A -1.01%  said Sept. 17 that a containment dome in its project off the coast of Alaska had been damaged during tests.

Shell spokesman Bill Tanner said in an email to MarketWatch that the oil major remains committed to the region.

“Shell believes that the Arctic has significant untapped potential and will play an increasingly important role in meeting the energy challenge,” he said. He said the company is “qualified to do the job right.”

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