The U.S. Energy Department gave final approval for Cheniere Energy to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from a proposed plant in Corpus Christi, Texas.

The company says that its board of directors gave final authorization for Bechtel Oil, Gas and Chemicals to build two liquefaction trains to covert natural gas for export. The project is designed to have up to three trains with the capacity to produce as much as 13.5 million tons per year of LNG. Exports could start in 2018.

The facility will be located on the La Quinta Channel, on the northeast side of Corpus Christi Bay, about 15 nautical miles from the coast. A 22-mile pipeline will feed the plant with natural gas.

The approval will allow the plant to export the equivalent of 2.1 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas for 20 years to countries with which the United States does not have a free trade agreement.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration says the U.S. could become a net LNG exporter by 2017. The boom in domestic energy drilling and demand from gas consumers in Europe and Asia has pushed companies to build multi-billion-dollar facilities to export the fuel.

With the Energy Department’s permitting decision, the Corpus Christi project became the sixth LNG facility to win a license to export natural gas. The first—Cheniere’s Sabine Pass project—is now nearing completion along with the Louisiana-Texas border and could begin exporting this year.

Other export license holders include Sempra’s Cameron LNG project in Louisiana; the Freeport LNG project on Quintana Island, Texas; and Carib Energy, a Crowley Maritime Corp. project in Florida that ships containerized natural gas. On May 8, the Department of Energy gave the final export license to the Dominion Cove Point LNG project in eastern Maryland.

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