(Reuters) - Cheniere Energy Inc (LNG.A) said on Friday it expects to reach substantial completion of the third liquefaction train at its Corpus Christi liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant in Texas earlier than previously expected in the first half of 2021.
Earlier, the company said it expected to complete the train in the second half of 2021. This would continue a pattern for Cheniere and Bechtel, the engineering firm building the trains, of completing units ahead of schedule and on budget.
Cheniere also said in its third quarter earnings that it expects to complete the sixth train at its Sabine Pass LNG export plant in Louisiana in the first half of 2023.
The company said Corpus 3 was about 68.6% complete and Sabine 6 was about 38.1% complete.
Cheniere has five liquefaction trains operating at Sabine and two at Corpus.
Each train is capable of liquefying about 0.7 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of gas. One billion cubic feet is enough to supply about five million U.S. homes for a day.
In addition, the company is developing seven midscale LNG export trains at Corpus, called Stage 3, with a total capacity to liquefy about 1.25 bcfd of gas.
Cheniere Chief Executive Jack Fusco told analysts the company plans to make a final investment decision to build Corpus Stage 3 in the first half of 2020. The company has said that would allow the plant to enter service in 2023.
Sabine was the first big LNG export facility to enter service in the Lower 48 U.S. states. When Sabine shipped its first cargo in February 2016, the United States was not exporting any LNG.
Since then, the country has became the fourth-biggest exporter of the fuel in the world in 2018, behind Qatar, Australia and Malaysia, and is on track to overtake Malaysia and become the third-biggest in 2019 and the biggest in the world in 2024.
Looking at terminals under construction, total U.S. LNG export capacity is expected to rise to 6.9 bcfd by the end of 2019 and 9.6 bcfd in 2020 from 6.8 bcfd now.
Cheniere has estimated the cost of the first five trains at Sabine, including financing, at between $17.5 billion and $18.5 billion, while the first three trains at Corpus are expected to cost between $15 billion and $16 billion after financing.
Cheniere said it has a $2.5 billion contract with Bechtel to build Sabine 6.
Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Marguerita Choy