Beijing, China — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 29 April 2011 – Mining giant BHP Billiton would be interested in becoming a liquefied natural gas operator in the long term, said chief executive Marius Kloppers in an Australian media interview, amid speculation that the top global miner was eyeing Woodside Petroleum.

Reuters reports that BHP had quashed talk earlier in April that it was getting set to buy Shell’s 24% stake in Woodside as a precursor to bidding for Australia’s top LNG operator. Analysts interpreted that to mean that no deal was imminent, but not that BHP was not interested.

In an interview with the Australian Financial Review from here, Kloppers signalled that Woodside would remain on BHP’s radar, saying that being an LNG operator was one element missing from the company’s energy portfolio.

“That would be a useful thing to have, but I don’t think you should read into it that there is a burning feeling that the tool kit is light and that it is missing today,” Kloppers was quoted as saying.

“It is something that on balance, given that we want to be in all of the energy sources, and “’ given that we want to be in the various mechanisms by which hydrocarbons are produced and transported “’ it will be something that will be useful in due course.”