BHP Billiton to spend $4.5bn on shale gas

BHP Billiton plans to spend around $4.5bn (£2.8bn) on developing shale gas in 2012 following two acquisitions this year, the head of the global miner’s petroleum business said yesterday.

The miner spent nearly $17bn buying shale gas producer Petrohawk Energy and shale gas assets from Chesapeake Energy earlier this year.

It is targeting US shale production of 545bn cubic feet equivalent – 90m barrels of oil equivalent – in the 2012 financial year.

The shale gas projects are part of BHP’s plans to spend $80bn over five years on expanding production across its iron ore, coal, copper, uranium and petroleum businesses

“This is going to be a game changer around the world and for BHP Billiton not to be part of it would be irresponsible,” BHP petroleum chief executive Michael Yeager said.

BHP said it plans to spend around $5.5bn a year by 2015, about a billion more than previous estimates, and around $6.5bn a year in 2020 on US shale, despite some landowners claiming the mining technology raises safety concerns.

BHP’s move this year into the relatively new and contentious energy source has worried some investors, particularly with US gas prices depressed by the growing supply of gas from shale. Chief executive Marius Kloppers, however, has played down the concern, saying the group takes a “multi-decade view on price”.