QUESTION: What is your family history?
I was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and shortly after, while still a baby, we went back to
Venezuela. My mother was a Venezuelan and my mother was actually chasing my dad because he was having an affair in Trinidad. That’s how I came out of the belly in Trinidad. My family is from the eastern part of Venezuela. My ancestors are Scotts. My great-grandmother, on my mother’s side, was a McCracken; she came from Scotland and then settled in Venezuela. Never got to meet her; when I was at Austin High School she was still alive, probably in her 100’s at the time. She wouldn’t allow anybody to see her; she was a very proud woman. My grandmother would go see her. My grandmother was Spanish and Scottish. My mother met my father; his last name was Govia, which is Portuguese. My mother’s maiden name was Foregenell, which is French. That’s where my two last names are. In Venezuela you have to have two last names, in almost all Latin America. You don’t lose your maiden name. My full name is Steven Ian Govia Foregenell, this way they know my father’s name is Govia and my mother’s name is Foregenell, this way they can trace your family. My mother put the Ian in there because it is Scottish for John.
QUESTION: Where did you attend school?
I went to grade school in Venezuela. But I grew up with only Spanish. Later on, my mother sent me to New Brunswick, Canada to a French school, and there I learned French and a
little English. Then I came to Houston and finished senior high school.
QUESTION: Whom did you live with in Austin?
I lived with an uncle who was my stepfather’s brother. I always called my stepfather “Dad”
because I never really knew my real dad; I never met him. My mother divorced him
immediately once she realized what was going on. It was over with and she picked up her baby (me) she went down on the ferry, across the ocean, and back to Venezuela. I never met that man, may he rest in peace. I was tired of that boarding school in Canada, so my stepfather, made a deal with his brother who was attending the University of Texas, for me to room with him.
QUESTION: What did you do after graduation?
I bummed around for a while. I went to Libya, North Africa for a couple of years. Then I decided to go to college. Went up to New York and took the entrance exam to Columbia and they sent me to the New York Institute of Technology because I wanted to study
engineering. I studied engineering and received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. I stayed in New York for 2 years. I worked for a food company, CPC International. You would know their consumer products such as Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, Skippy Peanut Butter, Mazola Oils. I worked in the industrial division of it as an engineer building all these silos and various systems. Then I went to Porto Rico; I spent 8 years there. I was Vice President of Operations. I wanted to go back to Venezuela and so I left CPC International and took a job with Quaker Oaks as Operations Manager. Then I went back into the oil industry and I’ve been there since. My dad retired from Exxon as President of Research and Development. I started a small technology company. We go into
the oil fields look for what the carbons are. A lot of fluids, gas, petroleum, steam, water, and find what the problems may be in handling it. I look at Germany, Japan, Venezuela, the States and look at the technology and try to fix the problem.
QUESTION: I thought you had something to do with shoes in Venezuela?
No, my friend had a shoe company over there and I was helping him to export some shoes since I was in the states. Venezuela had a bonus incentive for exporting. They would give you 30% of what you invoiced. It was an incentive for manufacturers to export. What I did was help him set-up how to best make use of that incentive. We set up a company here and used trickery. We would sell it to the company here, which we owned ourselves, and mark the price to whatever we wanted to charge and send the invoice back over there. And charge 30% of whatever that invoice was. That allowed us to sell the shoes at the lowest possible price because you made up for it with the bonus. He asked me to set this up, but I really had nothing to do with it.
QUESTION: What are you working on now?
I’m working on probably the most interesting thing anybody could think of doing in his or her life. As you may know, the world is in bad shape energy wise, we’re running out of oil. Exxon, British Petroleum, all the big companies are spending billions and billions of dollars trying to find new oil. Well, Venezuela, in the Eastern part, has the world’s largest reserve of this extra heavy crude oil that is almost like asphalt. There are 281 billion barrels of proven reserves. The problem with that oil is it requires about 6 to 10 dollars per barrel to make it worthwhile because of the process to refine it. Looking for technology I
discovered this doctor in New Orleans who has this patent that was granted last year, it’s a chemical that when you add it to this oil it changes the viscosity, makes it flow easy. It has no affect on the final product. I’ve got the exclusive rights to it. He developed it to liquefy coal and asphalt. I went to this man and said why don’t we apply it to the Faja in Venezuela. I’m working with the government right now. I’ve got a right of first refusal from Venezuela. We just received our first samples of this stuff. Where it costs a processing
plant 6 to 10 dollars to change the API gravity of this crude, we spent 70 cents per barrel. The solution is a mixture of chemicals in liquid form that looks like water. It changes the crystal form of the molecule to the morphed form. The crystal form is very defined whereas the morphed form has no form and allows it to disperse and mix in. Also, when water is present, it will dissolve the heavy metals and releases steam. Some of the samples we’re working with are just like rock and we’ve melted them down, added this chemical to it and have been successful. The problem that has always been with asphalt is that you have all the heavy metals. This chemical solves the problem.
QUESTION: Do you have children?
I have three kids. My oldest daughter graduated from Cornell. She was President of her class and all that. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s from there. She now works for Cisco Systems in Houston.
QUESTION: Steve, you had such a diverse life, what would you like to do when you retire?