By ROBB M. STEWART
MELBOURNE -- The chairman of BHP Billiton, which is pumping
billions of dollars into developing shale assets in the US,
says the country should be encouraging oil and natural gas
exports rather than worrying about weaning itself off foreign
"I don't like the phrase energy security and energy
independence. I think that would be really wrong for a country
to go down that path," Jacques Nasser told a business luncheon
in Melbourne Thursday. "The US should not be afraid to import
certain forms of energy, but also should be promoting exports
of certain forms of energy."
Mr. Nasser, BHP's chairman since 2010 and a former president
and chief executive of Ford Motor Co. from 1998 to 2001, said
all forms of energy should be traded globally.
The export of onshore oil and gas, which has surged in recent
years as new extraction techniques have been developed, will
bring geopolitical benefits around the world and also create a
large number of highly skilled jobs, he said.
"As a country I used to be critical of the US because it
never had an energy policy. Then they surprised the heck
out of all of us, because by not having an energy policy they weren't able to regulate
those really smart, innovative entrepreneurs who started the
shale gas and oil revolution," Mr. Nasser said.
The US Energy Information Administration last year estimated
the country's natural gas output will increase to 33.1 trillion
cubic feet in 2040 from 23 trillion cubic feet in 2011, driven
largely by shale production. It expects crude-oil production
will increase to about 7.5 million bpd in 2019 from 5.7
million bpd in 2011.
Cheniere Energy, which is building a liquefied natural gas
(LNG) export terminal in Sabine Pass, La., is the only company
to hold permits to export gas out of the lower US where the
bulk of shale production is taking place. Several other
companies have applied for licenses to export, but are awaiting
BHP in 2011 expanded a petroleum portfolio that already
included operations in the US Gulf of Mexico, Australia and
elsewhere by grabbing thousands of acres of shale assets in the
US with the $12.1 billion takeover of Petrohawk Energy and
$4.75 billion purchase of Chesapeake Energy's Fayetteville
The company has said it expects output of 240 million bbl of
oil equivalent in the year through June. The company also
produces energy coal and uranium.
The surge in gas volumes coincided with a jump in shale
developments to hit the price of the fuel and last year
prompted a number of energy companies to write down the value
of assets, although US gas prices have recovered. BHP booked a
$2.8 billion impairment charge against its Fayetteville gas
assets in the last fiscal year.
"We're bullish on energy demand in total," Mr. Nasser said,
adding growth was expected to at least equal gross domestic
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