WASHINGTON, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- U.S. federal regulators said they authorized Cheniere Energy, a liquefied natural gas pioneer, to move forward with its export terminal in Texas.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said in a Tuesday filing it cleared Cheniere, which has headquarters in Houston, for construction of an LNG plant and associated pipeline networks in Corpus Christi, Texas.
"We conclude that, with the conditions required herein, Corpus Christi liquefaction's project results in minimal environmental impacts and can be constructed and operated safely," the regulator said.
Approved for both imports and exports of LNG, the project would have the capacity to process as much as 15 million tons of LNG per year.
Cheniere in mid-December said it reached out to more than a dozen financial institutions to help arrange the estimated $11.5 billion needed to pay for the cost of developing the Corpus Christi project.
The company already secured customers for gas sourced from the Texas plant. EDF, the largest gas company in Portugal, signed up for around 8.4 million tons per year from the project.
Construction on the LNG export facility is expected to start early next year.
LNG exports from the United States require special consideration for countries without a U.S. free-trade agreement.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration in a November report said the increase in U.S. natural gas production should support as much as 80 percent of the potential increase in demand resulting from the steady gains in exports of liquefied natural gas from the Lower 48 states.
Supporters of LNG exports say it would provide a source of economic stimulus, while detractors fret over the perceived environmental threats posed by the subsequent increase in hydraulic fracturing.
In its study, EIA found the "effects on overall economic growth [from the emerging LNG market] were positive but modest."