NextDecade Corp. said it is considering a plan to use two production trains for its proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility in South Texas, but it still plans to eventually have six trains running at the facility near the Mexican border.

The Woodlands, TX-based company said it could make a final investment decision on its Rio Grande LNG project with as few as two trains, which would have the capacity to export up to 9 million metric tons/year (mmty) of LNG.

NextDecade said the project, to be built on a 1,000-acre site in the Port of Brownsville, was scalable, and that a full complement of six trains would be capable of exporting 27 mmty -- roughly the equivalent of 3.6 Bcf/d -- over a 30-year period.

"NextDecade intends to develop the full six-train plant at Rio Grande LNG, but does not need to develop the full-scale facility in order to offer customers significant cost advantages, environmental benefits, and reliable LNG supply," management said Monday.

The company said the project was advancing through the regulatory process and expects to receive a notice of schedule from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission "in the near future."

The project is to be serviced by the Rio Bravo Pipeline, a dual 42-inch diameter pipeline that would run around 140 miles from the Agua Dulce market area near Corpus Christi, TX, to feed gas to the facility.

NextDecade expects to receive final authorization in the second half of 2018. It currently has authorization from the Department of Energy to export natural gas to countries that have U.S. free trade agreements.

Vast supplies of low-cost natural gas have put the United States on track to becoming the largest exporter of LNG within the decade. Nearly 20 Bcf/d of LNG export facilities have been approved and are either under construction or waiting to break ground.

The U.S. currently exports about 3 Bcf/d of LNG, but that number is expected to grow by more than 1 Bcf/d over the next year as several projects -- including a fourth train at Cheniere Energy Inc.’s Sabine Pass, Dominion Resources Inc.’s Dominion Cove Point LNG and Kinder Morgan Inc.’s (KMI) Elba Island LNG facilities -- come online.

Earlier this month, the International Energy Agency projected the U.S. would become the world's largest LNG exporter by the mid-2020s. Meanwhile, the Energy Information Administration reported last month that total LNG exports more than doubled between July 2016 (15.7 Bcf) and July 2017 (53.6 Bcf). Mexico, which imports LNG from the U.S. via vessel and truck, imported 14.4 Bcf of LNG via vessel during the latter month, making it the largest LNG importer by ship.