Wayne F. Krouse is the chairman, chief executive officer, and founder of Hydro Green Energy. He founded the company in 2002 after a short but distinguished career with Nalco/Exxon Energy Chemicals. He was the Research & Development chairperson of the National Hydropower Association in 2007.
SM: Wayne, where do you come from?
WK: I am originally from Natchez, Mississippi. My family moved around a lot. We also lived in Houston and Memphis for periods of time, but we always came back to Mississippi. My senior year of high school we were in Memphis. I then went to Tulane University [in New Orleans] and got a degree in chemical engineering.
SM: Was there much of an entrepreneurial background in your family?
WK: There is some on both sides of the family. On my mom’s side my great-grandfather immigrated from Europe to Canada. My grandfather was born in Montreal, and they then moved to New York City and on to Helena, Arkansas. They eventually got to Natchez, where there was a lot of cotton and agricultural trade going on the river. They came down and tried to buy and resale anything they could. They ended up focusing more on pecans and scrap metal.
SM: And you studied engineering at Tulane?
WK: For whatever reason I was always really good at math and science. My grandmother used to make long division problems for me, and I used to always ask for bigger ones. I was interested in math and science from a very young age. I also played with Legos all the time. I still love Legos. I have two new nephews and soon one of them will be getting Legos to play with.
In high school I had good chemistry, physics, and math teachers. That helped direct my skills. I always did well in those classes. Initially I though I was going to go to business school. I also was accepted to the University of Chicago. When I got to Tulane I found it more appealing for a guy who was 17. I thought I was going to be a stock broker because I had been paper trading since I was 14. Eventually I ended up declaring an engineering major.
SM: What happened when you got your degree?
WK: Chemical engineering is a very cyclical degree. Probably not as much as it used to be. It was tied to the petroleum industry, and back then oil was $14 a barrel. It was a very different environment, and it would go through booms and busts. When I entered university the cycle was at the top, and when I graduated it was at the bottom. The oil companies were not hiring.
I ended up taking a job for URS Consultants doing air permitting for the oil companies and chemical plants on the Mississippi river between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. I graduated on Friday and started work on Monday. That was the only offer I had, and it was a take it or leave it offer. I guess that position was more of an environmental engineering position than anything.
SM: How long did you work there?
WK: Five months. The money was so bad that when I saw an ad in the paper for Schlumberger. I took their aptitude test and they offered me a position as a field engineer. I did four months of training and went out and ran a crew of three or four guys in the Gulf of Mexico. We had about $3 million in equipment and took boats and choppers out to the oil platforms. I did that for about three years and ended up leaving because I got burned out. The schedule was two weeks on, one week off, but that actually used to go more like 16 days on, 5 days off. It was tough to have a life with that job. I met my wife while I was working for them. I felt like I wanted to get more serious so I left and interviewed for a company that was a joint venture between Exxon Chemical Americans and Nalco Exxon Energy Chemicals.
I started with them in July of 1995. I worked in the field, technical support and sales. I had the opportunity to be involved in the early trials of a new technology. We were basically selling chemicals and providing solutions to fouling problems in the chemical industry on the process side, not on the water side. These specialized chemicals would help reduce rates of fouling and let the equipment run longer and save customers money.