Plug Pulled on Planned Buffalo, New York, Ethanol Plant

Buffalo News (NY) -- October 18, 2011 -- The principals behind a proposed ethanol fuel plant on the Buffalo River have thrown in the towel, abandoning their plans and changing course after a combination of factors slowed progress toward their original goal.

"We're no longer pursuing the reusing of the industrial sites for those things," said Rick Smith III, a partner in RiverWright, who first announced the ethanol plans in the summer of 2006. He also is president and CEO of Rigidized Metals Corp.

"We're moving on to another new and exciting adventure," Smith added. "We're not doing any ethanol."

RiverWright Energy LLC had planned to convert the former ConAgra milling facility on the waterfront, tapping into growing demand for alternative fuels and energy. It had purchased four adjoining former grain elevators, with the intention of storing corn there and building an ethanol processing plant on the grounds.

Plans called for ultimately producing 110 million gallons of ethanol a year, to be shipped to depots in Albany, while revitalizing long-vacant grain elevators, flour mills and a malting house at Childs and Ohio streets.

But the ethanol market abruptly dried up just after the project obtained its initial approvals and permits, and just as it was trying to secure financing. That forced the group to put the plan on hold while pursuing other opportunities.

The group also had sought $8 million in federal tax-exempt financing, administered by the City of Buffalo using Recovery Act funds, but the city denied its request.

RiverWright also sold one of the four grain elevators, the former Lake & Rail site, to Whitebox Commodities of Minnesota, which is using it once again for grain.

Now, five years after announcing its ambitious plan, RiverWright just sold its eight adjacent riverfront properties, with two going to Rigidized Metals, the nearby manufacturing company run by Smith, and the rest going to two new but related entities.

According to the Erie County Clerk's Office, RiverWright sold the parcels on the waterfront, across from downtown, for a total of $414,000. Two of them, both vacant parcels, went to Rigidized Metals, which is located next to those properties.

Another property, with the two-story former American Office Building that was constructed in 1950, went to Silo City LLC. And the remaining six properties, containing most of the grain elevators and a four-story light-manufacturing industrial warehouse, built in 1900, were transferred to RiverSullivan.

Silo City and RiverSullivan are registered to Rigidized's address but are separate entities, and those properties will not be used by Rigidized, Smith said. He did not elaborate, saying the plans are not yet final.

"We're going to have to stay tuned," he said. "There are some things afoot, but I'm not certain what it's actually going to be yet. It'll be fun."

Author: Jonathan D. Epstein

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