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Shell rejects Total warning over Arctic oil search

Oil giant Shell vows to resume exploratory drilling in the Arctic despite rival’s fears a spill would ruin reputation of firms involved

Shell has rejected a plea from its French rival Total that the energy industry should abandon its search for oil in the Arctic on the grounds that a spill would ruin the reputation of any company involved.

The Anglo-Dutch company, which was forced to halt its recent drilling operation in the Chukchi Sea after vital safety equipment broke, said it would continue its longer-term work. “At Shell, we believe the Arctic has significant untapped potential and will play an increasingly important role in meeting the energy challenge. It holds great opportunity and that comes with great responsibility,” said a spokesman at the London headquarters.

“Our experience working in rigorous and challenging conditions in the Arctic means that we are qualified to do the job right – to explore for offshore oil and gas in Alaska in a very safe and careful way,” he added.

Industry experts expect Shell to restart drilling the Chukchi in July, while Christophe de Margerie, Total’s chief executive, told the FT this week the risk of an oil spill in such an environmentally sensitive area such as Greenland would be a disaster. “A leak would do too much damage to the image of the company,” he added, but insisted plans for gas developments in the Russian Arctic would remain.

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