Japan's biggest investment in Australia, the $US34 billion Ichthys LNG project, has reached the halfway mark of its construction phase.
Ichthys' operator Inpex announced the milestone in a statement in Tokyo today.
Inpex president director Australia Seiya Ito described it as a "major step" towards Ichthys' goal of being operational by the end of 2016, when it wants to begin sending cargoes of liquefied Browse Basin gas to customers in Japan.
Inpex and main partner Total made a final investment decision on Ichthys' development two and a half years ago, deciding to build a two-train processing plant capable of producing 8.4 million tonnes of LNG a year at Bladin Point, south of Darwin.
Ichthys' FID also spelled the end of Premier Colin Barnett's dream of convincing Inpex and Total to return to WA for a land-based processing development, in line with the partners' original plan before a breakdown with the then-State Labor Government.
The breakdown prompted Inpex to drop plans for an LNG plant on Maret Island, off the Kimberley, in favour of Darwin, which will be linked to the Ichthys gas fields with an 889km pipeline.
Despite Ichthys's Darwin presence, Inpex expects to spend $3.5 billion in WA during the project's construction phase, as part of a national $10 billion commitment.
Ichthys's 50 per cent milestone comes with WA's two land-based LNG projects, Chevron's 15.6mtpa Gorgon (Barrow Island) and 8.9mtpa Wheatstone (near Onslow), completed to 80 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively.