Black-led start up capitalizes on natural gas bonanza


— A black entrepreneur’s “power move” on the energy sector could create hundreds of jobs in one of the the poorest communities in Texas.

Houston-based businessman Phillip Franshaw is building Annova LNG, a multi-billion-dollar liquefied natural gas export facility on the Brownsville Ship Channel along the Texas Gulf Coast. If successful, the project could support more than 650 construction-related jobs and another 165 permanent jobs once completed, at an average salary of $70,000 a year or more.

Franshaw is gambling on a process called “liquefaction.” It supercools and converts natural gas into a liquid and makes it easier to transport via tanker to utilities and other major consumers in Asia and Europe. This technology requires the construction of an approximately $3 billion plant, a massive undertaking on many levels.

This project has been years in the making.

Annova LNG was born as a two-man shop, when president and founder David Chung asked Franshaw to help finance the facility. Chung coined “Annova,” a twist on the word “innovate.”

The duo took the project to market and soon began collaborating with Exelon Corporation, a major US utility and operator of America’s largest fleet of nuclear power stations. Exelon purchased a controlling interest in Annova in July 2014 and maintained Franshaw’s management team.

“Having a quality sponsor of that magnitude has given us the leverage to aggressively approach the market and execute through the development phase of the project in a most effective way,” Franshaw said.