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."
Yet, Annova faces stiff competition. At least 50 companies have applied for federal permits to export domestically produced liquefied natural gas. Two other plants are headed for the Brownsville Ship Channel.
"Annova distinguishes itself from these other ventures, however, by building a facility that can offer buyers more flexibility. This approach decreases construction costs, limits risk, and can be scaled up if demand eventually grows. We think the future of the market will be small-scale facilities, and that's how we differentiate ourselves."