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Story by Reuters

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Cheniere Energy Inc (AMEX: LNGnews) will get the first supplies in the coming weeks to test the Sabine Pass liquefied natural gas export terminal in Louisiana, industry sources said Wednesday.

Sabine Pass is expected to export its first LNG cargo in mid-December, making it the first LNG export terminal in the lower 48 U.S. states. The Kenai LNG export terminal has been operating in Alaska since 1969.

The United States has plentiful and affordable supplies of natural gas from shale plays that will transform the country from a net importer of gas mostly from Canada to a net exporter of the fuel via pipeline to Mexico and LNG to Europe and Asia by 2017, according to federal estimates.

Sabine Pass is located in Cameron Parish on the Louisiana coast adjacent to Cheniere’s LNG import facilities. The company wants to build six liquefaction trains each capable of processing over 3.5 billion cubic feet of gas per day.

The site interconnects multiple interstate and intrastate pipeline systems and is being developed in three stages with stages including trains 1 and 2, trains 3 and 4, and trains 5 and 6. Each train has a production capacity of about 4.5 million tons per annum (mtpa).

Cheniere started building trains 1 and 2 in August 2012 and trains 3 and 4 in May 2013, the company said on its website. The first train is expected to produce LNG in December 2015 with the remaining three trains being completed every six to nine months thereafter.

For the first four trains, 16 of the 18 mtpa has been contracted under long-term deals to units of the UK’s BG Group (LSE: BG.Lnews) PLC, Spain’s Gas Natural SDG SA (Xetra: 853598news) , South Korea’s Korea Gas Corp (KSE: 036460.KSnews) and India’s GAIL (India) Ltd .

Cheniere has contracted most of the capacity for train 5 at Sabine Pass with units of France’s Total SA (Paris: FR0000120271news) and the UK’s Centrica PLC (LSE: CNA.Lnews) . The company, however, is looking to sell more capacity on trains 5 and 6 before starting construction.

Cheniere is also building the first two of three 4.5 mtpa trains at the Corpus Christie LNG export facility in Texas, which is expected to enter service in 2018. (Reporting by Scott DiSavino and Oleg Vukmanovic; Editing by Alan Crosby)