VOLNEY — Bio-products company Attis Industries announced this week it has finally closed a deal to buy the ethanol plant located in the town of Volney — formerly operated by motor fuels distributor Sunoco — for $20 million.
The company had previously announced it wanted to purchase the ethanol plant alongside the 1886 Malt House barley malting facility, back in late January, adding it wanted to expand on the current site and eventually transform it into a “state-of-the-art green tech campus.”
The touted green technology development complex, according to Attis officials, would eventually bring in 100 new high-skilled jobs in addition to the 90 employees already toiling away at the current facility, producing the renewable fuel derived from corn.
The former Miller Brewing site in Volney closed in September 1994, before reopening as an ethanol plant in 2008. Sunoco purchased the facility and has been producing ethanol since 2010.
With the purchase of the plant now finalized, Attis President David Winsness called the operation a “great transition” for the employees, adding the plant has not stopped operating and the company still anticipates the creation of the new positions.
“The acquisition occurred and the plant continued its regular production of 180 gallons (of ethanol) a minute,” Winsness said. “We plan to add a lot to this facility, which gets the employees excited. When anyone is investing in a company and a location that you work at, that's generally a good thing.”
A factor that attracted the environmental technology company to the Fulton site, Winsness said, was the state of the current facilities.
“This is just a fantastic location for us to add our new innovations because the infrastructure’s already here to expand on easily,” he said, noting that the engineering for some of these upgrades is mostly complete. “The professional operators and staff are already in this field. So we’re not training from ground zero on a new technology. We’re expanding on the infrastructure and the people that are here.”
One of the company’s planned expansion projects is the production of cellulosic fuels, which according to Winsness comes from wood biomass extracted from thinning forestry residues in the vicinity.
Further, Winsness said the forests’ gassy material has a low carbon density and is abundant in New York due to the state’s 18 million acres of forest land, adding that the plant expects to build an additional wing where those materials are converted into cellulosic fuel that will power the plant and will be used for commercial purposes.
“We have those resources here in New York,” Winsness said. “What’s unique to us is we have advanced technology to convert woody biomass, slash, etc., into ethanol more efficiently than anybody else we’ve seen by a long shot. We have figured out the pathway to do that and it’s not a very difficult pathway. It’s a very practical pathway to make the process run more smoothly.”
The production of renewable energy and the self-sustaining processes by which the plant plans to operate, Attis officials said, could help New York meet ambitious targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
The federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is a program requiring fuel sold in the U.S. to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels. New York has set even more aggressive goals to adopt the use of renewable energy.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, ethanol, which is a renewable fuel derived from corn and other plant materials that meet the RFS, is used in more than 98 percent of gasoline in the country. Ethanol most commonly makes up 10 percent of standard fuel.
“We believe the demand for low carbon energy sources will continue to increase in the coming years and Attis is well positioned to be able to grow with that trend,” Attis CEO Jeff Cosman said.
The commercialization of ethanol produced from cellulosic feedstocks, according to the U.S. Alternative Fuels Data Center, is a “funding priority of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office.”
The Volney facility is the first plant Attis Innovations has purchased, but Cosman said the company could purchase more plants in the future as the business looks to expand across the nation.
“Rest assured the Fulton plant is the single most important piece of that because that’s going to spur all the development across the whole country,” Cosman told The Palladium-Times in January. “We’re going to build out that facility and make it a campus to educate and train workforces from all over the country as we build out across the country.”
Local officials said that while the outlook for the town of Volney and its surrounding localities seems positive, they want to take a wait and see approach.
“Eventually it will be very beneficial for both locations if they deliver on their promise,” Volney Town Supervisor Dennis Lockwood said, referring to the economic enhancements it could bring for both Volney and Fulton.
Lockwood added the new jobs that can come from the anticipated green technology campus can be a positive for all localities involved, but he noted the bio-products giant needs to deliver on its promises first.
Fulton Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. said the acquisition could have a significant impact on the Fulton area, adding the city would work with Attis to help facilitate growth.
Woodward said it is “absolutely wonderful” to hear the company has plans to expand the site and workforce.
“Jobs are what we need,” Woodward told The Palladium-Times in January. “That’s exactly what this area needs. That’s a very good piece of news that Fulton and the whole area needs."