Western New York Energy plans capacity upgrade

Western New York Energy plans capacity upgrade (June 27, 2015)
Posted: Saturday, June 27, 2015 12:09 am

The Batavia Daily News
By Jim Krencik jkrencik@batavianews.com

MEDINA — Even with capacity for 1 million bushels of corn and an efficient operation, Western New York Energy isn’t immune from gluts and shortages of supply.

The ethanol-producing Medina plant has occasionally had to turn away local corn suppliers at peak times and has watched its reserves drain down when winter storms prevented new deliveries.

President and CEO Michael Sawyer said Thursday that an 800,000-bushel bulk corn storage silo planned for construction this summer will provide flexibility on both ends of the supply spectrum and room to grow the business in the future.

“(The added capacity) allows us more flexibility on receiving local corn,” Sawyer said. “It puts us in a position where we don’t have to turn away deliveries because we’re full and more capacity is important for logistics because we’ll have sufficient supplies on hand.”

The Bates Road complex currently has two 500,000-bushel bins, which combined can hold an 18-day supply of corn WNY Energy uses to produce ethanol, corn oil and material for an adjoining CO2 plant.

The project, which Orleans County Planning Board members supported Thursday, will cost about $2 million and is scheduled to begin construction in July. The proposed 105-foot wide and 142-foot tall steel bin will be situated south of the existing silos on a cleared area of land visible from Maple Ridge Road.

WNY Energy started ethanol production at the Medina site in 2007, taking in frequent truckloads of corn grown and stored at nearby farms. The added room will provide additional revenue for growers currently dealing with a decline in corn prices in time for this year’s harvest.

Sawyer said the project will not create an immediate need for workforce expansion, although the capacity will allow future operational growth that would facilitate job growth.

“Our plan is to prepare for the future, and the expansion facilitates a plant expansion that would need new equipment and additional capital expenditures,” Sawyer said.

Growth around the ethanol industry has largely been focused on expansions into new products, but capacity limitations are a hindrance.

“Having done what we can in those areas, we’re now looking at what other improvements we can make,” Sawyer said. “As we looked at expansion opportunities, the need for additional storage arises.”