Nasser in US energy call

BHP Billiton chairman Jac Nasser has urged the United States to allow energy exports from its shores, declaring that energy products should be traded globally.

BHP Billiton chairman Jac Nasser has urged the United States to allow energy exports from its shores, declaring that energy products should be traded globally.

Speaking at a British Chamber of Commerce lunch in Melbourne, Mr Nasser said he did not like to hear nations discussing concepts like "energy security" or "energy independence", which have become common in the US where energy products have rarely been exported.

While some exceptions do exist, the US has traditionally banned exports of energy products on the grounds that the nation has not been self-sufficient in energy for much of its recent history. That situation has been reversed by the recent shale boom in the US, which has created a gas glut, forced down energy prices and raised the prospect of exporting excess gas to growing Asian nations.

BHP has exposure to US oil and gas through its rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and the $20 billion worth of shale acquisitions made in 2011, and Mr Nasser's call comes as US regulators are wrestling with the notion of allowing greater volumes of oil and gas to be exported.

"They should encourage the export of their onshore oil and gas, because that will have geopolitical benefits around the world, apart from the fact that it would create a lot of very highly skilled jobs as well," he said. "I don't like the words 'energy security', or the phrase 'energy security' and 'energy independence'. I think that would be really wrong for a country to go down that path.

"All energy should be globally traded, and it should be a global product, and the US should be not afraid to import certain forms of energy, but also be promoting exports of certain forms of energy."

Just last week BHP and ExxonMobil revealed a final investment decision on their Scarborough LNG joint venture could be taken before the end of 2014. The companies plan to develop the West Australian project using their first floating LNG facility, and Mr Nasser played down the technical challenge of using that equipment for the first time.

"Our understanding is that Scarborough is of less intense difficulty in terms of technology than some of the other floating technologies that are around," he said.

Earlier, Mr Nasser had spoken at length about the flaws in Australia's industrial relations system. But when asked if he was calling for a return to WorkChoices as existed under the Coalition government led by John Howard, Mr Nasser said he did not care about labels, but simply wanted an IR plan that was jointly developed by all interested parties in the national interest.

"The best way to do it is really what happened back in the 1980s where everyone sat down," he said.