BHP Studies Shale in Australia, Europe as It Focuses on U.S.

BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest mining company, is studying shale formations in Australia, Europe and South America as it remains focused on developing onshore assets in the U.S.

“We’re clearly going to be very studious in Australia and we’re going to be very studious in Europe,” BHP Billiton Petroleum Chief Executive Officer Michael Yeager said in an interview at the IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston today.

In time, “You’ll see us start to take land positions and you’ll start to see us possibly do some things” related to those resources, Yeager said, though he emphasized that the company is moving cautiously as it concentrates most of its firepower on U.S. opportunities.

BHP has 45 rigs working in the onshore U.S., including 31 in the Eagle Ford, eight in the Permian Basin and six in the Haynesville and Fayetteville gas areas, Yeager said. The company’s U.S. work is focused on liquids output, though he said BHP would like to do more with its natural gas fields if prices rise.

“There is no big desire to go get more,” Yeager said. “We got more than we can say grace over right now,” he said, adding that BHP will remain “forward-thinking.”

BHP may look to sell its Liverpool Bay venture in the U.K. as the project ages, and has been in touch with possible buyers, Yeager said. The company isn’t looking to sell a big asset such as its exploration and production properties in Pakistan at this point, he said.

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