Japan's biggest oil and gas explorer Inpex Corp. said it has started trial operations at its Ichthys LNG and condensate export facility in Australia, and is set for production by end-March despite reports of further delays.

Inpex spokesmen said the company has been conducting trial operations of offshore processing units and floating production, storage and offloading facilities, as well as onshore LNG and LPG plants.

The spokesmen said Ichthys is on course for the start of gas production by the end of this month, followed by condensate exports, most to be shipped from the offshore facility.

Exports of LNG and LPG would take some time following condensate exports, as gas needs to be transported to onshore plants through an 890 km (556 miles) pipeline, one of the spokesmen said.

The comments from Inpex come a month after the head of junior partner Total SA (NYSE: TOT) suggested possible delays ahead on Ichthys and hinted at further cost blowouts.

Inpex expected minimal cost overruns of up to a few percent on the $37 billion Ichthys project, Senior Managing Executive Officer Masahiro Murayama told Reuters in February.