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BHP lowers expectations for petroleum

Company says it's in a good position to move once markets recover.

By Daniel J. Graeber
BHP lowers expectations for petroleum
BHP Billiton said it's trimming costs, but is positioned for recovery in shale once market conditions improve. Photo by photostock77/Shutterstock

MELBOURNE, July 20 (UPI) -- Australian mining and energy company BHP Billiton said it was ready to pounce at core U.S. assets once conditions improve for energy prices.

BHP reported total petroleum production for the fiscal year ending June 30 is down by 6 percent to 240 million barrels of oil equivalent and is expected to drop off to as low as 200 million boe in the 2017 fiscal year.

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Andrew Mackenzie, the company's CEO, said other mineral parts of the company's portfolio are expected to see growth. For petroleum, the company focused on responding to weak energy market conditions by cutting back on exploration and production, largely at onshore shale assets.

Onshore output is expected to fall by nearly 30 percent by next year while BHP Billiton focuses more on conventional programs and those in the Gulf of Mexico.

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"We are well positioned to bring on shale volumes as markets tighten and develop conventional resources over the medium to long term," Mackenzie said in a statement.

Across the board, BHP cut capital spending on petroleum by 50 percent to $2.5 billion. The company said it plans to cut spending there by another 44 percent for the 2017 fiscal year. Spending planned for assets offshore is expected at around $700 million.

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The company in January announced it was taking a $7.2 billion charge on its U.S. onshore assets, forecasting continuing energy sector weakness. In February, the company posted its first loss in more than 16 years and cut its dividend paid to shareholders by about 75 percent.

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"We can create significant value through further cost reductions, taking advantage of latent capacity in our assets and investing in low-capital projects," Mackenzie said.

Crude oil prices are up more than 25 percent since the start of the year, but have held in the mid $40 range for most of the second quarter.

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