Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, has long been recognized as a major contributor to global warming. In fact, it is believed to be responsible for over a quarter of the warming the Earth has experienced to date. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, President Joe Biden recently hosted a “Methane Summit” at the White House to address this pressing issue.While the primary sources of methane emissions are well-known, including natural gas wells and pipelines, cattle feedlots, coal mines, rice paddies, and landfills, there are occasional surprises when it comes to large methane releases.
One such surprising discovery occurred on June 4, when a plume of methane gas was detected at a sprawling ranch in West Texas, where billionaire Jeff Bezos tests his space rockets. As it turns out, Bezos’s space company, Blue Origin LLC, is in the process of developing a rocket that runs on liquefied natural gas, which is essentially pure methane. This means that the company routinely emits methane during its testing and development processes.
The June release was detected by an instrument on board the International Space Station, which happened to be passing by on that particular day. This unexpected finding highlights the need for increased vigilance in monitoring methane emissions, even in unexpected places. While the focus is often on the more well-known sources of methane, it is crucial to also address emissions from industries like space exploration, where methane may be utilized as a fuel source.