Bezos' Blue Origin tied to sudden methane spike
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Bezos' Blue Origin tied to sudden methane spike

Sep 06, 2023

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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Methane (CH4) is responsible for 11.4 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Being the most potent gas, methane was also on the agenda for discussion at the White House.

According to Reuters, the Biden administration, on 23 July 2023, implemented a cabinet-level task to help organize federal agencies in employing technologies that identify methane leaks. They further emphasized enforcing methane regulations to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite efforts to reduce potent greenhouse gases, high methane emissions were detected at the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos' rocket site – Blue Origin. An instrument on board the International Space Station was responsible for detecting a surprising amount of methane gas released.

Methane is normally emitted from natural gas wells and pipelines, cattle feedlots, coal mines, rice paddies, and landfills. Although it was previously unheard of in spacecraft, scientists are not surprised, according to Bloomberg.

Bloomberg reported that on June 4, a plume of the gas was detected at the sprawling ranch in West Texas where billionaire Jeff Bezos tests space rockets.

Not only does methane contribute to global warming, but it’s partly responsible for rapidly increasing global heat. Now, Bezos’s Blue Origin LLC, an aerospace company, manufactures rockets that run on liquified natural gas (LNG), which is almost pure methane.

The instrument that was crossing past the rocket area detected methane emissions from the Blue Origins Texas projectile in June. Bloomberg stated:

“The nonprofit group Carbon Mapper analyzed the readings and estimated the gas was escaping at about 1.5 metric tons per hour. There’s no indication of how long it lasted.”

Sara Blask, a spokeswoman for Blue Origin, told Bloomberg in an email that the firm frequently transfers LNG from our suppliers into storage tanks at our engine test stands.

“Everything operated normally,” she said, “there were no issues or reporting thresholds exceeded.”

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) regulator committee doesn’t enforce methane emission restrictions or mandate the disclosure of releases, Bloomberg highlighted.

In January 2020, the spacecraft organization filed an air permit application that requested revisions of the facilities at the West Texas Launch Site (WTLS) in Culberson County.

The application sought permission for a regular release of LNG into the atmosphere at a rate of 3.4 million cubic feet annually, equivalent to over 60 tons of methane.

“Blask didn’t comment on why the test site’s flare was not used to burn the gas, a step that would greatly reduce the climate impact,” Blomberg reported.

Blue Origin is not the only institution to utilize LNG; Elon Musk’s SpaceX also develops methane-powered rocket engines.

Scientists have proposed launching satellites to monitor the environmental pollutants, including methane, in the commercial space industry.

Watch Jeff Bezos' 2019 speech:

Bezos’ aim to explore space involves humans colonizing it as Earth’s resources are limited. In his 2029 speech, “Blue Origin 2019: For the Benefit of Earth,” he suggested an alternative world where the polluting industrial activity took place off-the-world. He said Earth should be “zoned for residential and light industry.”

“The stunning Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia. We’ve sent robotic probes to every planet in this solar system. Earth is BY FAR the best one. We go to space to save the Earth,” Bezos tweeted in 2018.

The stunning Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia. We’ve sent robotic probes to every planet in this solar system. Earth is BY FAR the best one. We go to space to save the Earth. @BlueOrigin #NoPlanB #GradatimFerociter