Ghost company: Strom LNG

A ghost company with no assets, not even an office or the land it claims for its Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) liquefaction facility, no investment, and no business partners. What reporters from Tampa Bay Times found was even worse than what what we found by attending a Port Tampa Bay board meeting: Port Tampa Bay has no agreement with Strom, and wants none. The reporters’ findings take us back to 2014.

Strom Inc. previously listed an Ybor City building as its physical location, which it no longer occupies. Pictured is the building. [ MALENA CAROLLO | Tampa Bay Times ]
Strom Inc. previously listed an Ybor City building as its physical location, which it no longer occupies. Pictured is the building. [ MALENA CAROLLO | Tampa Bay Times ]

Malena Carollo and Jay Cridlin, Tampa Bay Times, 20 July 2021, A company asked to ship gas through Tampa’s port. Then it ‘disappeared.’
A plan to transport liquefied natural gas from Citrus County to Tampa has activists concerned — even though details are scant.

The Tampa Port Authority’s June board meeting started like always, with a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. Then came the call for public comments.

Most port board meetings feature one or two speakers, if any. This one had nine, queued up both on Zoom and in person. All had the same concern: An April report to the U.S. Department of Energy filed by a fuel company called Strom Inc.

Seven years ago, Strom obtained a license from the federal government and has quietly pursued a plan to move a fuel called “liquified natural gas,” or LNG, from a 174-acre facility in Crystal River to one of Florida’s ports via truck or train. Its April report indicated that Port Tampa Bay has tentatively agreed to be its choice.

The fuel is a form of natural gas that is cooled to become a liquid. It is most often used in countries that don’t have infrastructure to extract and transport the gas form of the energy source. Opponents say the fuel can be dangerous to transport, calling rail shipments “bomb trains,” and should bear public discussion before a decision is reached to move it through a city. That’s what prompted the cavalcade of speakers at the port.

Their questions came as a surprise to port leaders, because as one official told the speakers: Port Tampa Bay has no agreement with Strom. It is not negotiating with Strom. And it has no plans to export liquefied natural gas of any kind.

In fact, much of the information Strom has provided to the federal government about its efforts to produce and export liquefied natural gas, the Tampa Bay Times found, is outdated by years.

Not only does Strom have no agreement with Port Tampa Bay, it has no investors or outside backing, no natural gas supplier and does not own the Crystal River property on which it told the Department of Energy it plans to start building a production facility this year.

“It’s kind of like a ghost company,” said Don Taylor, president of the Economic Development Authority for Citrus County, who years ago worked with Strom as the company pursued economic incentives to build in Crystal River. “They just kind of disappeared, and we never heard from them again.”

There’s much more detail in the article, which is well worth reading.

The reporters even got a response out of the head of Strom, Inc.:

In an email to the Tampa Bay Times, Dean Wallace, Strom’s president and co-founder of its parent company, Glauben Besitz, LLC, called the discrepancies in its Department of Energy filings “mistakes” that “will be corrected.”

Curious how Strom has been reporting many of exactly the same discrepencies to the Department of Energy (DoE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) twice a year for years.

“Our plans have not been finalized and will not be until we are fully funded,” Wallace wrote.

What happened to all those supposed investors, and the proposed reverse merger?

All smoke and mirrors, ghosted away.

Strom did once have a tentative agreement with Port Tampa Bay, years ago:

A “non-binding letter of intent” obtained by the Tampa Bay Times through a public records request shows the port in 2014 agreed to lease 11 acres of land to Strom for a liquified natural gas storage and loading facility. It would export about 1.5 million gallons of the fuel per day.

The agreement expired when Strom failed to sign a formal lease with the port within 60 days, as required by the letter. Despite this, Strom’s April Department of Energy filing still said it has a “tentative agreement” with the port.

That’s not the only port Strom ghosted.

Strom also looked at deals with Port Jacksonville and Port Manatee. The company told Port Manatee officials it would build an above-ground pipe from a rail terminus to a storage facility, and on to a shipping tank, according to emails with port officials obtained through a public records request.

“They say they are interested in selecting a site within a month, and to start production of their bulk facility in 90 (to) 120 days, very aggressive indeed,” said Matty Appice, Port Manatee’s senior director of trade development and sales, wrote in a 2014 email.

Later in 2016, Strom officials tried to reopen negotiations with Port Manatee, writing in emails obtained through a public records request that they would be making a final decision on the port “in the coming weeks.” Strom never did reach an agreement with Port Manatee.

Local negotiations went no better.

Strom’s most extensive negotiations were with Citrus County. Back in 2014, the company reached a tentative agreement with the now-dissolved Citrus County Port Authority, and inquired about potential economic incentives to build there, saying the facility would “directly create” more than 100 jobs in the county, with a potential statewide economic impact of more than $200 billion.

Things stalled when the Citrus County Commission began looking into which federal agency would have jurisdiction over Strom’s proposed facility. During that time, Strom failed to pay a required $24,000 federal filing fee that, among other things, would have had the federal government determine this.

It was in 2014 that Strom, Inc., applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a waiver from the usual permitting process because it proposed to package its LNG in containers to go on trucks. Strom told DoE FE in that year:

Strom. Inc. (“Strom”) is developing a project to export liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) from the State of Florida, USA. The LNG will be liquefied at our proposed 70 acres site located in Starke, Florida utilizing modular, scalable, portable LNG systems (“MLNG“) such as those marketed by such companies as General Electric’s (“GE”) “LNG in a Box,” Cryostat, Hamworthy, Chan, Linde, Air-Products, Siemens, Stirling Cryogenics, and/or other similar systems. Some of these MLNG can be mobilized in “less than three months”. Each of these MLNG can produce from “500 to 50,000 gallons of LNG per day”. As demand increases, Strom intends to continuously add MLNG units to increase production of LNG. Strom has begun the process of securing Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (“FERC”) authority for use of MLNG for such purpose.

On March 24, 2014 Strom filed a motion for declaratory order with the FERC relating to the regulation and permitting of these portable liquefactions systems. On March 27TH 2014 FERC established a comment period on our Docket which ends on April 18, 2014.

That did not go well for Strom.

On July 21, 2014, FERC issued an Order Denying Waiver of Filing Fee re Strom, Inc. under CP14-121.

On August 22, 2014, FERC issued a Notice to Dismiss Petition for Declaratory Order and Terminate Docket re Strom, Inc under CP14-121.

FERC’s reason? Strom did not pay the filing fee.

Because Strom has not submitted the filing fee within the required time, Strom’s petition for declaratory order is dismissed, and Docket No. CP14-121-000 is terminated.

FERC never ruled on Strom’s March 24, 2014, Petition for Declaratory Order of Strom, Inc. under CP14-121.

A month later, on September 25, 2014, Strom asked DoE FE to allow moving Strom LNG’s location from Starke to Crystal River, and FE complied. Dismissed by FERC? Whatever.

Strom wanted FERC to say FERC did not have jurisdiction over Strom’s proposed LNG operations. FERC never said yes or no: FERC merely rejected Strom’s petition because Strom did not pay the usual fee.

This was all before FERC in 2015 claimed it did not have jurisdiction over inland LNG facilities, in Pivotal LNG, Inc., 151 FERC ¶ 61,006, (2 April 2015), despite dissent from then-Commissioner Norman Bay, who wrote in part.

Here, the majority acknowledges that “liquefaction facilities operated by Pivotal and its affiliate … [will] produce liquefied natural gas that [will] ultimately be exported to foreign nations by a third party” and that such foreign sales must be made pursuant to an export license from DOE.5 There can be little doubt, therefore, that the facilities will be involved in the “exportation of natural gas in foreign commerce.”6

Ain’t that the truth.

WWALS members Cecile Scofield and Maxine Connor have been on this case all along. Needless to say we are following up on this with FERC and FE, yet again. Maybe with some new blood at FERC things will change. We shall see.

I’d like to thank again Michelle Allen, southern region deputy director for environmental group Food & Water Watch, for digging into Strom LNG and Port Tampa Bay, which started this snowball of bad news heading towards Strom.

In case we end up having to sue FERC, you can donate to our legal fund for that.

LNG export routes, Map
Map: by WWALS, from federal and state filings of LNG export operations.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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