(Reuters) - U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) company Cheniere Energy Inc officially opened its $15 billion Corpus Christi LNG export facility in Texas on Thursday.
The company, however, would not say when the first cargo will actually leave the facility, which produced its first LNG on Wednesday.
There is an LNG vessel, the LNG Golar Tundra, docked at the plant that analysts say will take the project’s first cargo soon.
At a celebration marking the opening of the facility, Cheniere’s President and CEO Jack Fusco was joined by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and other state and local officials.
Corpus Christi is the third big LNG export terminal to enter service in the lower 48 U.S. states.
The first was Cheniere’s Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana, which sent out its first cargo in February 2016. Since then, Sabine has delivered almost 500 cargoes to 29 countries and regions around the world, Fusco said at the celebration.
The company has said it expects Corpus 1 and the fifth liquefaction train at its Sabine Pass LNG export terminal in Louisiana to enter commercial service in the first quarter of 2019, followed by Corpus 2 in the second half of 2019 and Corpus 3 in the second half of 2021.
Each of Cheniere’s trains is capable of liquefying about 0.7 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of natural gas. One billion cubic feet is enough to fuel about 5 million U.S. homes for a day.
U.S. LNG exports have almost quadrupled from 183.9 billion cubic feet (bcf) in 2016 to 706.4 bcf in 2017, worth about $3.3 billion, and are on track to rise to over 1,000 bcf in 2018, making the United States one of the world’s biggest exporters of the super-cooled gas.
Total U.S. LNG export capacity is expected to jump to 5.2bcfd by the end of 2018, 8.9 bcfd by the end of 2019 and 10.3bcfd by the end of 2020 from 3.8 bcfd now, which should make the United States the world’s third-biggest LNG exporter by capacity in 2019.
Cheniere has said it is also developing a sixth 0.7-bcfd train at Sabine Pass and seven smaller 0.2-bcfd trains and other opportunities at Corpus.
Reporting by Scott DiSavino; editing by Grant McCool