Alfred State receives $1 million for biorefinery center

By Alfred State | September 23, 2015

New York Sen. Catharine Young announced  that she has secured $1 million in state aid to help establish the Bio-refinery Development and Commercialization Center (BDCC) on Alfred State’s School of Applied Technology campus in Wellsville.

The proposed BDCC will be used to further advance research of the Hot Water Extraction (HWE) process, which extracts useful chemicals from natural products, and take the current successful HWE process, developed in the laboratory at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), to a commercial level. The chemicals can be used for a number of industrial products and the remaining cellulose material can be used for pellets and products used in structures. HWE is the process through which an industrial-based concept known as New Forest Economy (NFE) uses natural resources.

Making her announcement on the Wellsville campus, Young said the best economic strategy is to capitalize on your strengths, as in what makes your area special.

“You only have to look around and see the awesome abundance of natural resources in the Southern Tier. When you look around, what do you see? You see trees and rolling farmlands,” she said. “For centuries, the people in this region have gotten economic opportunities and sustenance from the forests and the fields that we have here. Now it’s time to take these resources to a much higher level.”

Young said the BDCC has the potential to exponentially increase the $8.8 billion the forest products industry annually pumps into New York State’s economy, as well as the $40 billion annual impact agriculture has on the state.

“We are hoping to start a wave of transformation across rural New York to renew the upstate economy, especially in forested areas that are struggling economically,” she said.

Alfred State students and faculty will be involved in the development and building of the BDCC, including students majoring in welding, machine tool technology, drafting/CAD, mechanical engineering technology, electrical engineering technology, and electrical trades. Learning opportunities will include development of the HWE process, process control, pressure vessels, and many other components. Alfred State will work with SUNY ESF on other programs, including bioprocessing engineering.

Dr. Skip Sullivan, president of Alfred State, said, “We are grateful for the support of Senator Young and the State of New York in helping us to establish the Bio-refinery Development and Commercialization Center on our School of Applied Technology campus in Wellsville. This facility will complement our new Advanced Manufacturing Center, and will also prepare our students for careers in the newly developed New Forest Economy and various other industrial facilities.”

Dr. Craig Clark, executive director and dean of the School of Applied Technology, said, “This funding for the BDCC will assure that the college can develop this great economic development project, showcasing the workforce development and the learning-by-doing technology focus of Alfred State. The ability to have students intimately involved in this manufacturing facility on campus, on a daily basis, will greatly enhance the education of our students.”

Other speakers Thursday included Dr. Thomas Amidon, Bio-refinery Research Institute director, and Preston Gilbert, SUNY Presidential Fellow for the New Forest Economy and assistant director for Community Development, who both developed the HWE process on cellulose material in a laboratory at SUNY ESF. Also offering remarks were Patrick McGlew, executive director of Seneca Trail Resource and Conservation Development Council, Inc., who introduced the New Forest Economy in western New York after learning of it from Amidon; Curt Crandall, chairman of the Allegany County Board of Legislators; and Crystal Abers, director of Development, Planning and Tourism for Cattaraugus County.

The next step, Young said, is to gain even greater state support.

“There is a pending application to the Regional Economic Development Council for more funding,” she said, “and I will be pushing hard for the support of Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo and Empire State Development. Here’s a real, live opportunity to revitalize struggling areas of the state.”