SYDNEY, April 17 (Reuters) - BHP Billiton is focusing the bulk of its $4 billion U.S. onshore exploration spending to develop its Eagle Ford and Permian shale assets, its biggest liquids-producing holdings, as it diversifies away from mining metals.
The global miner, which stuck to its full-year prodution guidance for its major businesses in it latest quarterly report, said the onshore U.S. business, which it bought in 2011, produced more than 5 million barrels of liquids during the March 2013 quarter.
The rise in output will help keep the petroleum division on track to meet its fiscal 2013 production forecast of 240 million barrels of oil equivalent, BHP said.
BHP said its onshore US drilling and development spending totalled $3.2 billion for the nine months ended March 2013. Over 80 percent of the annual $4 billion budget will be focused on the liquids rich Eagle Ford and Permian areas.
In iron ore, where BHP holds the No. 3 ranking behind Vale and Rio Tinto , production rose 6 percent in the March quarter to 40.2 million tonnes despite the effects of a cyclone.
The miner said production rates were nearing 200 million tonnes a year, and maintained production guidance in fiscal 2013 183 at million tonnes.