Chief executive Christophe de Margerie said his company would not be joining the stampede north as an oil leak “would do too much damage to the company”.

The stance puts Mr de Margerie at odds with his competitors who are busy carving out oil exploration programmes in the area. Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil and Norway’s Statoil have all recently signed deals to explore the area. BP is trying to develop its exposure to the area through its Russian partnerships.

Although Mr de Margerie warned against oil exploration he said Total would continue to explore opportunities to tap the area’s gas reserves. Speaking to the Financial Times he said gas leaks were much easier to deal with.

Just last week Shell was forced to postpone attempts to drill the first well in Alaska for more than 20 years. The setback came after a crucial piece of safety equipment failed.

Drilling in the Arctic has become increasingly contentious as research shows the area has vast untapped reserves.

Environmental groups have long opposed oil development programmes in the Arctic, warning the ecosystem is too fragile to take even minor oil leaks.

Mr de Marerie’s comments are likely to infuriate his rivals, who will point to the fact Total does not have any major oil development programmes in the Arctic that it stands to lose.

Just last week MPs put their weight behind a ban until safety levels improved. The Commons environment committee called for the creation of a “no-drill zone” in the area.

The MPs said oil companies should face unlimited financial liability over oil spills in the Arctic.

However, the UK government has no powers to halt drilling in the Arctic.