Brewing a New Biofuels Market for the Northeast

A defunct beer brewery north of Syracuse, New York will soon start churning out more booze. This time, it’s a clean fix for cars all over the Northeast.

A new $157 million dollar ethanol production facility called Northeast Biofuels (NEB) will be one of the largest ethanol producers in the nation and part of a growing shift in the biofuels industry beyond the traditional Midwest. Ethanol has little trouble gaining support in the Midwest states where the corn to manufacture it is plentiful. This sentiment, however, has a tendency to dissipate as you look further to either coast where the economic and political benefits of the production cycle can be lost. Developers and the project’s supporters alike believe the new facility, located at the Riverview Business Park, will be a major part of ethanol’s expansion beyond the Midwest corn-states. NEB estimates to use 41 million bushels of corn, much of it to be purchased from New York farmers, to produce 100 million gallons of ethanol a year. The ethanol will be marketed for use primarily in New York State and the Northeast as a clean burning, oil saving gasoline additive. The principals of NEB and Riverview are Central New York natives and long time businessmen Eric Will and Thomas Denney. Will and Denney purchased the 420 acre, 1.2 million square foot former Miller complex four years ago. They didn’t buy the facility planning on building an ethanol production facility. Instead, they bought the expansive property as an investment but soon realized its potential. “After taking an audit of the park’s assets, particularly the old Miller brewing infrastructure, we zeroed in on ethanol and biofuels production as possible use,” Will said. Much of the brewery’s beer brewing equipment and structures could easily be retooled for ethanol production. The developers were also able to retain all the facility’s permits from its days as an active brewery. This greatly accelerates their construction cycle. At a press event last week, Governor George E. Pataki and Senator Jim Wright announced that New York state would provide $4 million toward the $153 million project. “A brewery which for 11 years has essentially sat empty will again be operational, brewing ethanol instead of beer,” Governor Pataki said. “This project will reinforce New York State’s position as a national leader in advancing both the renewable resources and biofuels industries and at the same time.” The Governor also announced that two of NEB’s major partner-suppliers, Perdue Farms and BOC Gases, will be making investments. Perdue Farms will facilitate the acquisition of corn for NEB, by locating a grain division at Riverview. In addition to corn origination, Perdue will also market distiller’s dried grains (DDG’s), one of the co-products of the ethanol production process, as a nutritional supplement for dairy and other livestock. “Our intent is to buy a significant amount of the grain for this venture from New York farmers, which will grow the market for local agriculture,” Chairman and CEO of Perdue Farms Jim Perdue. “Our involvement in renewable fuels is part of our company’s commitment to environmental stewardship.” Perdue Farms was the first major poultry companies to develop a large-scale alternative use for poultry litter through our organic fertilizer business BOC Gases, will build a liquefaction plant at Riverview to process carbon dioxide, another corn-to-ethanol co-product. When NEB hits full capacity of 100 million gallons of ethanol per year, the plant will produce one of the largest streams of carbon dioxide in the east. NEB, Perdue and BOC will employ an estimated 100 workers, while over 1,000 in-direct jobs are projected to be created in the agriculture and transportation sectors alone. More than 300 will be employed during the 15 month construction and renovation cycle.
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