Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Australian mining and energy giant BHP Billiton said it was on course to leave U.S. shale behind, but kept production expectations for next year unchanged.
The Australian company said Wednesday its U.S. operated rig count increased from five to nine, while its divestment streak continued. In August, CEO Andrew Mackenzie said the company determined that its U.S. shale assets were not core parts of the portfolio.
"Divestment of a small portion of the Hawkville acreage [in Texas] was completed during the quarter, with work underway to exit our remaining onshore U.S. assets for value," the company said in its latest statement.
Hawkville lies within the broader Eagle Ford shale in Texas. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said it expects Eagle Ford oil production to increase by less than 1 percent by November, compared with 2 percent growth expected from the nearby Permian shale.
U.S. onshore development expenses for September were $$131 million. Total production decreased by 8 percent as the impact from Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas in late August, took a toll on shale oil and gas operators.
Conventional oil and gas production account for the bulk of the companies non-minerals and metals output and the company said its guidance for production next year was unchanged at between 180 million and 190 million barrels of oil equivalent.
Mackenzie said Wednesday that performance keeps the company on track to grow.
"We manage the portfolio for value and returns," he said.
In April, BHP dismissed a push by managers at hedge fund Elliot Associates and Elliot International, which hold minor shares in the company, to split off its U.S. oil division in order to unlock tens of billions of U.S. dollars in shareholder value.
Capital geared toward exploration and production was reduced last year, though the company said its spending efforts would increase next year as its focuses on offshore opportunities. The company holds a 23.9 percent stake in the Mad Dog project in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico, a program controlled by British energy company BP. Production by 2022 is expected to be around 140,000 gross barrels of crude oil per day.