THE FIRST cargo of liquefied natural gas from the east coast of Australia has been loaded onto an export vessel, with BG Group starting loading on 28 December.

LNG Tanker the Methane Rita Andrea took its first cargo from the Queensland Curtis LNG project on schedule, with a second cargo from the facility to be loaded onto the Methane Mickie Harper later in January.

BG Group, which operates the QCLNG facility, said the start of production from the plant’s first LNG train was the result of more than four years of development and construction on Curtis Island.

Company interim executive chairman Andrew Gould said the milestone was an “immense achievement”, having taken place on schedule and within the Phase 1 budget of US$20.4 billion.

“The start-up of QCLNG is testament to the hard work, skill and dedication of all our employees, partners and customers including the thousands of individuals who have been involved in physically building the plant,” he said.

“The ongoing support from both the State Government of Queensland and the local councils of our upstream region and in Gladstone has also been pivotal in this development. We thank them all.”

The project will expand further with the start-up of the second train in the third quarter of 2015. At plateau production, expected during 2016, QCLNG will have an output of around 8 million tonnes of LNG a year.

Neighbouring projects Gladstone LNG and Australia Pacific LNG are expected to commence exports later this year.