The mystery of Elon Musk’s missing gas – TechCrunch


Environmental document Experts say SpaceX needs Federal Aviation Administration approval before it can begin testing the world’s largest rocket, and lacks important details about where its fuel comes from.

The SpaceX Starship and Super Heavy Launch Launch Vehicle Program Draft Environmental Assessment (PEA) hopes Elon Musk will soon be in orbit and head for Mars, last month. FAA for Public Comments.. The 142-page document covers construction and day-to-day operations at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas. It wants Musk to incorporate it as a city called Starbase. These include pre-flight operations, rocket testing, launch and landing, and fuel, water, and electricity supplies.

The new pretreatment system purifies and cools natural gas into liquid methane fuel for Starship and Super Heavy rockets. The new 250 MW gas-fired power plant will require more gas. This large power plant typically serves over 100,000 homes and It costs hundreds of millions of dollars.. However, while the rocket launch has received much coverage at PEA, the new power plant has received only a rough mention.Especially how Tens of millions of cubic feet of gas Every day you need something to arrive at SpaceX’s remote facility near the Mexican border.

It’s rare to mention this in the PEA, which could violate the Federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), said Pat Parenteau, a law professor and senior counsel at the Environmental Advocacy Clinic in Law School, Vermont.

“NEPA is what we call the pre-leap law,” Parenteau said. “It is designed to inform federal decision makers about the environmental impact of their actions and how to avoid them.”

Pipelines are the usual way to transport natural gas to a power plant. NSA federal official told TechCrunch earlier this year that SpaceX had inquired about the reuse of a malfunctioning natural gas pipeline through the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Sanctuary.

“They want to reactivate their pipelines to transport methane through pipelines rather than trucks as they do today,” wrote an official who asked not to name them.

However, officials said the pipeline was permanently abandoned in 2016. And state records.. A source told TechCrunch that the obsolete pipeline now houses fiber optic cables for Internet connectivity at the University of Texas-Pan-American.

Trucking enough natural gas to support both large power plants and regular rocket launches can be a daunting task. An engineer at TechCrunch said it would require the delivery of thousands of tankers each year.

SpaceX first suggests that it is interested in drilling the gas itself. Report by Bloomberg Earlier this year. In a dispute over ownership of some abandoned gas wells, the company later wrote: [has] Unique ability to utilize natural gas with various economic incentives, independent of transportation and sales to the gas market. “

According to Parenteau, the environmental impact should have been disclosed at the PEA, regardless of which method SpaceX chose.

“Methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas, and courts need to trace the distribution through pipelines and the downstream effects of gas generation back to wells whenever they propose a project containing methane. “It’s been burned,” he said.

according to Environmental engineer’s blog PEA, which studies Starbase, also makes no mention of other equipment typical of gas power plants and gas treatment plants, such as thermal oxidizers, ammonia storage tanks, and gas flares. All of these have environmental implications, such as carbon dioxide emissions and air pollution.

The FAA has issued the following statement: “The draft assessment was prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other applicable environmental laws and regulations.”

SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment, but Musk mentioned at a Tesla shareholders’ meeting Thursday that the company was dependent on fossil fuels. “People say the carbon tax will benefit Tesla,” he said. “I’m right,’Yes, but it will hurt SpaceX.’ And he pointed out that methane (in the atmosphere) eventually breaks down into carbon dioxide.” Don’t worry too much about methane. “He concluded.

The exact location of the gas-fired power plant is still unknown, but it is about 5.4 acres in size, has a structure up to 150 feet high, and operates continuously day and night. There are also small (1 MW) solar farms that SpaceX wants to expand, according to PEA reports...

SpaceX requires gas-fired power plants to operate new desalination plants. This desalination plant produces the millions of gallons of freshwater needed each year for launch noise and fire extinguishing. A large amount of electricity is also used to make liquid oxygen from air.

NEPA is not the only federal regulation that applies. According to Parenteau and another expert, 250 MW power plants usually qualify as a major new source of air pollution under the Clean Air Act. This will cause another long environmental review.

“It’s been over 50 years since NEPA. [was enacted]I’m pretty surprised to see the agency doing this, “Parenteau said. “Maybe they want no one to notice?”

After the end of the public comment period on November 1, the FAA will issue a final PEA to clear SpaceX and continue, or prepare a more detailed Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) according to the FAA’s safety findings. Declare your intent. , Usually takes years to prepare.

If the final PEA does not appear to meet the requirements of NEPA or the Clean Air Act, the local community or environmental organization may force the FAA to prepare for EIS, further delaying the launch of the starship trajectory.

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