The first liquefied natural gas export shipment from the lower 48 states since the 1960s left Houston-based Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass LNG terminal in Cameron Parish, La., Feb. 22, bound for Brazil’s state oil giant Petrobras, marking a major step in the U.S. industry’s growth.

The 935’x141’, 82,200-dwt Asia Vision, one of Chevron’s new fleet of tankers built to carry 160,000 cubic meters of LNG, was the first tanker to load on the Gulf Coast since the Methane Pioneer – a converted World War II-era freighter – carried fuel from there to the United Kingdom from 1959 into the 1960s.

The Asia Vision loading and departure was monitored by the Coast Guard Liquefied Gas Carrier National Center of Expertise (LGC NCOE), which led an inspection team on behalf of the marine safety unit based at Port Arthur, Texas. The Coast Guard LNG group also has a growing role in overseeing the expansion of LNG as a marine fuel.

“This inspection not only marks the start of the liquefied gas portion of the energy renaissance but also highlights how our national centers of expertise are uniquely positioned to augment field units to meet industry needs as well as train our future inspectors in this growing industry,” Rear Adm. Paul Thomas, assistant commandant for prevention policy, said in announcing the inspection.

Sabine Pass was the first of seven facilities approved by Federal Regulatory Energy Commission and the Department of Energy to export LNG, and now the first to begin export operations. LNG carrier arrivals are expected to increase there, and four other export terminals around the country are expected to come online over the next two to five years, the Coast Guard said.

How that growth actually proceeds amid the energy price depression is being closely watched. Chevron’s worldwide investment in the export trade, and its big play with a $54 billion production hub in Australia to supply the Asia market, could not be at a worse time, some analysts say.