Australia’s BHP Billiton Ltd. said the Eagle Ford Shale has become the largest producing field in its petroleum and potash division for the year ending June 30, but the company plans to scale back its rig count and spend less on capital expenditures (capex) in the United States in 2014.

BHP said petroleum production increased 6% during its 2013 financial year, to 236 million boe. That figure included a “strong performance” from its onshore holdings in the United States, which produced 99 million boe, 33% of which came from the Eagle Ford.

On the natural gas front, BHP said realized prices across its portfolio rose 11%, to $3.76/Mcf. That price included a 17% increase in the average realized price of U.S. natural gas, which had also increased to $3.29/Mcf. The company said the average realized price of liquefied natural gas (LNG) also rose during the year, climbing 4% to $14.82/Mcf.

According to BHP, the price gains for natural gas and LNG were offset for a 4% decline in the average realized price of oil, which fell to $106/bbl. But the company said petroleum prices “remained strong for the 2013 financial year.”

BHP said during the last year, it spent $7.1 billion on capex for conventional and unconventional development, including $4.8 billion for onshore drilling in the United States. As planned, more than 80% of the capex devoted to the U.S. onshore was directed toward the Eagle Ford and the Permian Basin.

“While still in its early stages, the Permian appraisal program continues to deliver encouraging results, as demonstrated by the 1.0 million boe produced in the 2013 financial year, and the expected contribution of approximately 4.0 million boe in the 2014 financial year,” BHP said.

Nevertheless, BHP said it planned to spend only $3.9 billion on onshore capex in the United States in 2014, an 18.8% decrease. The company said it was continuing to optimize its drilling program, and planned to reduce the rig count to an average of 25 during 2014.

“Approximately 75% of operated drilling activity will be focused on our liquids rich acreage in the Eagle Ford,” BHP said. “The remaining activity will occur in the Haynesville [Shale], and the Permian, where we are continuing to appraise our most prospective acreage.

“Our operated drilling program in the Fayetteville [Shale] has been temporarily suspended, however we will continue to invest in wells operated by third parties where we see value,” BHP added (see Shale Daily, Aug. 7, 2012).

BHP reported that for the 2013 financial year, its liquids-rich acreage in the Eagle Ford and the Permian has produced 33.4 million boe, 42% of which was natural gas, 23% was natural gas liquids (NGL) and 35% was crude oil and condensate. Meanwhile, BHP’s dry gas acreage in the Haynesville and Fayetteville shales produced 65.8 million boe of natural gas.

The company said that for 2013, it has spent $3.9 billion on capital expenditures (capex) for liquids-rich targets in the Eagle Ford and the Permian. By comparison, it has spent $900 million on capex in the Haynesville and Fayetteville.

BHP said revenue for the year ending June 30 was $66 million, an 8.7% decrease from the previous year. Profit attributable to members of the BHP Billiton Group also fell, by 29.5%, to $10.9 billion.

Underlying earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) fell 16% to $28.4 billion for the year. BHP Billiton Group’s underlying earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) of 33% was supported by a $2.7 billion reduction in controllable cash costs, but weaker commodity prices offset EBIT by $8.9 billion.