Total project director takes on his new role in Beijing
The deer and the antelope play at the Griffith Ranch, a 300-acre spread near Winnie and the home of exotic game and Carl Griffith, the former sheriff and county judge. It was in the latter role that he helped facilitate the Deep Conversion Project at the Total Port Arthur Refinery, a multi-billion dollar expansion that has positioned the facility to play a major role in 21st century fuel production.
Now some five years later, a small gathering in the hangar at the ranch is bidding a fond farewell to one of the major players in the project. Griffith, now a private citizen, has gathered friends and public officials for a crawfish boil in honor of Rajan Krishnan, who came to Southeast Texas as Deep Conversion Project director. In two days he would depart for Beijing, where he will play an integral role in Total’s new coal gasification efforts in China.
On this night, Rajan and his wife Sunitha are enjoying the company of friends even as they contemplate the next adventure in their lives.
Deloris “Bobbie” Prince, mayor of Port Arthur, was in attendance. She has been a prominent supporter of the Deep Conversion Project since it was in the conception stage, but her presence here is also personal.
“I wanted to wish Mr. Krishnan well in his new job, and to thank him and Total for all their efforts here in Port Arthur,” said Prince. In her job as mayor, she moves easily between the personal and the political with her acknowledgement of what Total represents in the community as both a job-creating business and conscientious corporate citizen.
Similar recognition can be construed from the presence of Jefferson County Commissioners Everett “Bo” Alfred, Michael “Shane” Sinegal and Brent Weaver along with district court judges Bob Wortham and Mickey Shuffield. The social lubricant of the crawfish boil with the attendant corn, potatoes and beer has been a familiar ingredient in forging bonds of friendship.
“A week after I came to Port Arthur, they took me to my first crawfish boil,” recalled Krishnan with a chuckle. “I have really learned to enjoy Cajun food, more so than the rest of my family.”
Krishnan had previously held management positions at Total’s heavy oil joint venture in Venezuela before coming to Total Port Arthur Refinery as technical manager in 2002. He became assistant general manager in 2003 before being named director of the Deep Conversion Project in 2006.
With more than a decade of his 24 years with Total spent in Port Arthur, Krishnan has forged deep ties in Southeast Texas. His two sons were largely raised here – one attends Johns Hopkins in Maryland; the other works for Total.
“This is our home now,” he said. “When I retire, we will return here.”
A native of India, Krishnan followed a circuitous route to Texas. He graduated from the University of Calicut in India as a chemical engineer in 1975.
“A lot of engineering students from India have found much success in the United States but I didn’t really want to leave home – so I said ‘Let me go to France,’” he said. France was much closer to home so he continued his studies there, earning a Masters degree in chemical engineering from the French Petroleum Institute.
Perhaps it was inevitable that Krishnan would then go to work for the Paris-based Total, one of the world’s largest integrated international oil and gas companies that operates in more than 130 countries.
Krishnan’s job has taken him to all corners of the globe. In addition to his current posting to China and his earlier sojourn to Venezuela, his first assignment in the United States was in New Jersey. He became an American citizen in 2002.
His passion for his work is evident. At the conclusion of an interview with the Business Journal, Krishnan said, “You can build or you can transform but you must put your heart in it.”
Rajan Krishnan may be in China now, but he left a significant chunk of his heart in Texas – and said he will be back to get it.
Business Journal editor James Shannon offers a weekly column of business news for readers of The Examiner. For more details, see the editions of the Business journal published monthly in Beaumont, Port Arthur and Greater Orange. Check out the blog at setxbiz.blogspot.com or e-mail james [at] beaumontbusinessjournal [dot] com.