U.S. regulators have given the green light to Royal Dutch Shell plc’s proposed buyout of UK rival BG Group plc, clearing the way for completing the merger in early 2016 as planned.

The $70 billion transaction announced in April is expected to enhance Shell’s gas business, allowing it to become the global leader in liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports (see Daily GPI, April 8). The merger is the biggest in the industry in years (see related story).

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) OK is a big step, but to complete the deal, approvals are required by all of the countries in which BG operates, including Australia, Brazil, China and the European Union.

“Securing early termination of the U.S. antitrust waiting period from the FTC at this early stage is a clear demonstration of the good progress we’re making on the deal,” Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said Tuesday.

“We’re well underway with the anti-trust and regulatory filing processes in relevant jurisdictions around the world and we’re confident that, following the usual thorough and professional review by the relevant authorities, the deal will receive the necessary approvals. We remain on track for completion in early 2016.”

As it prepares to combine, Shell plans to sell off some properties, and BG’s portfolio also is expected to shrink. Shell has estimated that its sales could reach $30 billion between 2016 and 2018.

With more of its output now natural gas, the LNG business is considered one of the big strengths. With BG, Shell would have nine LNG terminals worldwide with current capacity of 33 million metric tons/year. Delivered volumes in 2014 on a pro forma basis would have been 45 million metric tons of LNG.