By Dow Jones Business News,
December 10, 2013, 09:15:00 PM EDT
BHP Optimistic U.S. Gas Exports Will Lift Price
SYDNEY--BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP) expects U.S. natural gas prices to rise if the country opens vast reserves in onshore
shale deposits to exports, as anticipated, but has no plans to participate in any export terminals.
"Our belief is in a free market," said Tim Cutt, president of the Australian resources company's petroleum division,
adding he was optimistic Washington would in the coming years open the market fully to export liquefied natural gas to
BHP's petroleum division is its second most profitable division after iron ore and underwent a major expansion in 2011
with the US$17 billion acquisition of onshore U.S. shale-oil and gas assets. The company plans to invest US$4 billion
annually to grow its onshore production to 500,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day by the 2017 financial year.
BHP has more recently focused its efforts on oil and other liquids rather than gas from its shale fields after gas
prices weakened as a number of companies tapped America's shale fields.
Mr. Cutt, speaking to reporters by telephone, said the development of shale technology in the U.S. had already been "
transformative," bolstering the country's economy and injecting taxes for governments.
The Obama administration has approved a handful of gas export projects and Mr. Cutt said that about 20 more projects
are in the works, which would greatly boost shipments to countries in Asia and elsewhere.
Advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technology have led to a boom in gas production that has made
the U.S. the world's largest natural-gas producer.
Proponents of greater exports argue exporting relatively inexpensive natural gas will help the U.S. trade balance,
while opponents counter that exports could cause domestic prices to rise and hurt consumers and some industries that
have benefited from cheap prices.
BHP's interest in the opening up of U.S. natural gas exports doesn't extend to related infrastructure, however. Mr.
Cutt said BHP was not participating in any export terminal projects in the U.S. and had no plans to move into that end
of the industry. "It's not really what we do," he said.
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