Steam turbines, generators, ethanol all part of cargo mix

Section: Capitaland Quarterly,  Page: CQ17

Date: Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Port of Albany is where huge steam turbines and generators manufactured by General Electric Co. begin their trip to power plants worldwide.

It's also where, for the past two years, wind- turbine blades have arrived, enroute to wind-power projects throughout the Northeast.

Energy has always been a key component in the mix of cargo at the port, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2007.

Privately operated fuel terminals sit north and south of port property on the Albany side of the Hudson River. Another terminal is on the port's Rensselaer side.

Shipments of ethanol arrive here by rail regularly. The ethanol is loaded in barges, destined for refineries in the Northeast, where it's blended with gasoline to create a cleaner-burning fuel.

Plans for a massive ethanol production plant, costing up to $350 million and occupying 18 acres just south of the port administration building, were announced at the end of March.

Albany Renewable Energy LLC, the developer, might build the project in phases. The operation would use as much as 60 million bushels of corn a year to produce 165 million gallons of the corn-based fuel. As much as 500,000 tons of feed for cattle would be a byproduct.

The port's other major cargo is grain. More than 500,000 tons were shipped overseas last year from the massive grain elevator operated at the port by Cargill Co. Weak harvests in Europe and South America helped drive demand for American wheat.

Through the end of June, 135,712 tons of grains had been shipped out so far in 2008, indicating another strong year.

Still, the port is showing its age. The warehouses lining the riverfront sit on pilings that date back to the port's opening. Officials plan millions of dollars in improvements starting this year to rehabilitate the docks, said Robert Cross, who chairs the Albany Port District Commission.

Routine dredging also is required to keep the river bottom deep enough for cargo ships laden with steel. The work lowered the river bottom to about 34 feet from 30 feet. The steel ships need just under 32 feet of clearance.

The port will spend $7.5 million on the first phase of dock rehabilitation, which begins this year. Of that, $6.5 million will be provided by the state through the Rebuild New York bond act. The money will be enough to replace 1,000 feet of dock.

Cross estimated the entire rehabilitation project eventually will cost $14 million. The rest will be on the port's Rensselaer side, to stabilize and strengthen the upland area. The Rensselaer docks were rebuilt in the 1970s.

Map points


When the 13 million-bushel grain elevator opened in 1932, it was the largest grain elevator in the world. Cargill Co., its owner, says it's still the largest grain-export elevator east of the Mississippi River. The elevator towers 175 feet over the port.


Rehabilitation of the Rensselaer side of the Port of Albany won't begin until at least 2010, after the Port District Commission lines up $7 million in funding. Work will consist of stabilizing the soil embankments. The docks were rebuilt in the 1970s.


The port spent $750,000 to remove sediment from the river bottom between sheds 1 and 3, where ships carrying steel pipe for the $600 million Millennium Pipeline project are unloading. The pipeline will carry natural gas across southern New York state from Corning to just north of New York City.


The turning basin is where ships turn around as they head back down the Hudson River to New York City and the Atlantic Ocean.


Enclosed sheds, covering about 275,000 square feet of space, are used to store weather-sensitive cargo, including commodities ranging from sugar to cocoa beans. Wind-turbine blades, meanwhile, typically are stored outside until they are loaded onto trucks. The port's cargo also has included rock salt, liquid fertilizer, molasses, wood pulp and subway car shells.


An ethanol production plant is proposed for 18 acres directly south of the port administration building. Planning for the project, as well as efforts to line up financing, are under way.