Long Island’s biofuels industry will be expanding next week. Finally.
On Wednesday, Brooklyn-based Metro Fuel Oil Corp., a leader in the biofuels industry in the metro area, will cut the ribbon on a $5-million biofuel storage and distribution facility at Riverhead Town’s Enterprise Park at Calverton, a move that will stimulate competition in the local industry, highlight Riverhead’s efforts to sell parcels at what is known as EPCAL, and relieve traffic congestion on the Long Island Expressway. Calverton was the site where the former Grumman company built and flight-tested Navy airplanes.
One of the major reasons Metro selected Calverton is that the company will be able to ship its products — about 300,000 gallons a week to start that can be used for heating buildings — via Long Island Rail Road freight from its Brooklyn plant to Calverton, using a 2.3-mile rail spur leading from the LIRR’s Main Line to EPCAL.
The spur, which was abandoned decades ago after Grumman shifted aircraft-manufacturing South, has been rehabilitated, using a little more than $5 million in state and federal stimulus money, according to Andrea Lohneiss, Long Island regional director of the Empire State Development Corp.
“The linchpin in looking for a value-added site was the rail” spur, said Metro owner Gene Pullo. “The fact that it [EPCAL] had the rail made it an easy choice.”
Metro had been shipping product to Long Island using trucks to various delivery points. There will now be some relief for motorists on the LIE, said Lohneiss. Metro said that 100 railcar trips can replace 2,500 truck trips.
Cleaner biofuels are being sought nationwide, said Kevin Rooney, chief executive of the Oil Heat Institute of Long Island. “This shows the biofuel industry is growing” on the Island and becoming more competitive, which is good for the consumer, Rooney said.
Metro will mean competition for Melville-based Northville Industries, which is in the storage and distribution business. Metro is also a Northville customer.
“We’re good friends and good competitors,” said Northville president Gene Bernstein.
Metro began talks with Riverhead about the project five years ago. Town Supervisor Sean Walter, who was elected to the post two years ago, said “it’s taken [Metro] a long time” to get through the town approval process. He has plans to create a board that will have the right to approve EPCAL projects within 75 days.
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