(Adds details on project and LNG market, Tellurian CEO comment)
Jan 18 (Reuters) - Tellurian Inc's proposed Driftwood liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Louisiana took a major step forward on Friday as the U.S. federal energy regulator issued a final environmental report clearing the way for the company to seek a permit to build the export terminal.
The company said it now needs an order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) allowing the construction and operation of the 27.6 million tonne per annum (mtpa) liquefaction plant aimed at meeting growing global demand for the supercooled fuel.
"Tellurian will then stand ready to make a final investment decision and begin construction in the first half of 2019, with the first LNG expected in 2023,” said Tellurian Chief Executive Meg Gentle in an statement.
In the report, known as a final environmental impact statement, FERC staff concluded that the Driftwood LNG project "would result in adverse impacts on the environment; however, impacts on the environment would be reduced to less than significant levels" with avoidance and mitigation measures.
Driftwood is one of dozens liquefaction/export projects under development in the United States seeking customers so they can start construction and enter service over the next decade to meet growing global demand for the fuel.
U.S. LNG exports have quadrupled in the last two years and are expected to top 10.3 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) by the end of 2020, making the country one of the world's largest LNG exporters. One bcf of gas is enough to fuel about 5 million U.S. homes for a day.
In addition to the LNG terminal, Tellurian is developing pipelines to transport gas from shale formations in Texas and Louisiana to LNG terminals and other Gulf Coast customers.
Reporting by Julie Gordon in Vancouver; Editing by Steve Orlofsky