VOLNEY, NY â€“ Sunoco hosted a ceremonial ribbon cutting this afternoon (July 21) to celebrate the grand opening of its ethanol manufacturing facility in Fulton.
â€œThis has been a long journey for a lot of people,â€ said Bob Owens, Sunoco vice president of marketing. â€œWeâ€™re just delighted to have our ribbon cutting event today.â€
After an investment of approximately $25 million and months of capital work, the 100-million-gallon-per-year ethanol manufacturing plant began operations in late June and sold its first shipment of corn-based ethanol on June 30.
The facility directly employs 60 people and sources as much corn from local growers as possible.
â€œWe are pleased to join the Oswego County community and look forward to playing a productive role in the region,â€ said Lynn Elsenhans, Sunoco chairman and CEO. â€œOperating this facility and sourcing as much corn as possible from local growers we will contribute to the regionâ€™s economy and support the creation of â€˜greenâ€™ jobs.â€
What does the plant mean to the areaâ€™s economy?
L. Michael Treadwell, head of Operation Oswego County, the countyâ€™s economic development agency, described it as a walk-off grand slam home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game Seven of the World Series.
â€œThis is very, very exciting for Sunoco to recognize the startup of this ethanol facility,â€ Elsenhans said. â€œIt is also a new business for us in biofuels.â€
As the largest ethanol manufacturing facility in the Northeast, where much of Sunocoâ€™s retail gasoline network is located, the plant is uniquely situated to serve much of companyâ€™s ethanol requirements.
Treadwell said everyone is â€œvery pleasedâ€ Sunoco selected this area for a plant.
â€œThere is so much to say about this project and what it means to Oswego County, Central New York and even New York State,â€ he said.
He has been in and out of the plant dozens of times during the past year, including one meeting just recently.
â€œTo walk out after that meeting and hear the humming of the equipment and product being made was really like the sound of music or something. It was a really great feeling to hear that,â€ he said.
He also recognized Northeast Biofuel for attempting to operate the plant. Though they didnâ€™t quite succeed, they laid the groundwork that enabled Sunoco to come in and get the plant running, he pointed out.
â€œI believe without that group, this could have been a vacant plant still,â€ he said. â€œBut they kept it alive.â€
When running at full capacity, the facility is expected to supply approximately 20 percent of Sunocoâ€™s ethanol needs.
â€œLetâ€™s hope this plant goes to 200 million gallons a year. And for Sunocoâ€™s sake that that is still 20 percent of your needs,â€ Treadwell said.
Last month the plant delivered its first shipment of ethanol, Elsenhans noted.
Sunoco looks forward to many years of working with the farmers and others in Oswego County, she added.
Biofuels, she said, will continue to become a larger part of the fuel mix in the nation.
â€œThis certainly is a red letter day in Fulton and Oswego County,â€ said Sen. Darrell Aubertine. â€œWhat we have here, I believe, is an opportunity, a beginning of a greater opportunity; an opportunity certainly for agriculture and the economy of the entire region.â€
Assemblyman Will Barclay said he remembered going past the facility years ago after Miller Brewing vacated it.
He said he saw several deer on site and wished there was more activity there than just wildlife.
â€œWeâ€™re thrilled that now Sunoco is here,â€ he said. â€œI look forward to working with you for many years to come.â€
Barry Leemann, chair of the Oswego County Legislature, welcomed Sunoco to Oswego County and said he hopes they continue to grow here.
â€œI think their business will continue to grow. The local farmers are extremely happy,â€ he said.
The money the companyâ€™s 60 employees earn â€œwill be spent, a lot of it, in the county. And that’s going to help our county,” the chairman said. â€œAnd, I hope they’re going to hire more (employees).â€
Volney Town Supervisor Dennis Lockwood welcomed Sunoco and wished them a lot of success.
As a provider of transportation fuels, Sunoco views the successful startup as a first step into the manufacture of alternative fuels, an area of possible growth for the company that it will continue to evaluate.
Sunoco has sold ethanol-blended gasoline for more than a decade.
Elsenhans also cited senators Schumer and Gillibrand who were unable to attend but had supported the project.
Although this is Sunocoâ€™s first entry into the manufacture of alternative fuels, the company has a long history of involvement in that field.
Thomas Golembeski, Sunoco public affairs spokesperson, said it was a great day.
â€œItâ€™s wonderful that after so much work and investment that the facility is up and running,â€ he said.
The area was a great location because of its proximity to a large chunk of Sunocoâ€™s retail gasoline operations, he explained.
â€œWe can take the ethanol from this plant and blend it into the gasoline very easily. It is the largest ethanol plant in the northeast United States,â€ he said.
During the 1990s, Sunoco worked with government and private vehicle fleets to evaluate and test the commercial viability of various alternative transportation fuels, including compressed natural gas, methanol and propane.
Sunoco is headquartered in Philadelphia.