(Adds analyst comments and background)
March 2 (Reuters) - The first vessel carrying liquefied natural gas from Dominion Energy Inc's Cove Point LNG export terminal in Maryland left the facility early Friday, according to analysts and Reuters shipping data.
The LNG tanker Gemmata left fully loaded, according to energy data provider Genscape, which said it observed the loading of the vessel process through its cameras set up to watch the facility.
Officials at Dominion were not immediately available for comment.
Dominion has spent about $4 billion to add export facilities at Cove Point, long an LNG import terminal on Chesapeake Bay.
Cove Point is the second big LNG export terminal in the Lower 48 U.S. states after Cheniere Energy Inc's Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana, which exported its first cargo in February 2016.
After decades of importing massive amounts of gas, the United States became an exporter of the fuel in 2017 for the first time in 60 years due to record U.S. gas production from shale fields.
The United States is expected to become the world's third- biggest LNG exporter by capacity in 2018, furthering President Donald Trump's goal of American energy dominance by exporting U.S. oil and gas to help create jobs at home and provide more security to the nation's allies around the world.
U.S. LNG export capacity is expected to rise to 10.1 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) by the end of 2020 from 3.8 bcfd today.
Cove Point is designed to liquefy about 0.75 bcfd of gas. One bcfd can power about 5 million homes.
In December, Dominion said Royal Dutch Shell Plc would take the initial LNG cargoes from Cove Point. Gemmata is a Shell vessel.
The shipping data does not say where Gemmata is heading, noting it is available for orders.
Another vessel, the Methane Spirit, is also headed for Cove Point, according to Reuters shipping data. Methane Spirit is located near Singapore and is expected to reach Cove Point around March 31.
Dominion sold the project's capacity for 20 years to a subsidiary of GAIL (India) Ltd and to ST Cove Point, a joint venture of units of Japanese trading company Sumitomo Corp and Tokyo Gas Co Ltd.
Some of the LNG going to ST Cove Point will go to Tokyo Gas and some will go to Kansai Electric Power Co Inc, according to Sumitomo's Pacific Summit Energy (PSE) unit.
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis)