Despite SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s focus on electric vehicles, the uncomfortable fact remains that rockets are powered by fossil fuels. Now, SpaceX is embroiled in a legal battle over the right to drill for natural gas in reserves close to the company’s launch facility in Boca Chica, Texas, according to Bloomberg.
An attorney representing Lone Star Mineral Development LLC, a SpaceX subsidiary spun up in the summer of 2020, appeared before the Railroad Commission of Texas on Friday to discuss plans to extract natural gas from the La Pita oil and gas site.
SpaceX has been using its Boca Chica launch facility to test prototypes of its Starship vehicle, a novel spacecraft that the company hopes will one day ferry passengers and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, and Mars. Starship will be propelled by SpaceX’s Raptor rockets, which are fueled by methane, a natural gas.
Bloomberg notes that it’s not clear what Lone Star will ultimately do with the natural gas, but local television station KRGV reported that SpaceX may be looking to use it to fuel its rockets.
“They want to put these wells back in service and use the, basically, methane that they were producing as fuel for the rockets,” said Kerry Pollard, a consultant and president of Pollard Petroleum Consulting who is working with Lone Star, according to KRGV.
Another company, Dallas Petroleum Group, claims that it maintains the rights to some of the reserves, which has sparked a land dispute that has been simmering for several months.
Shortly after it was incorporated, Lone Star purchased the 806-acre La Pita lease from a Houston-based company that has since been renamed Mesquite Energy Inc. Dallas Petroleum said that it still owns a 24-acre parcel of this land, and had its own plans for the wells located there.
The Texas Railroad Commission, which is the state’s energy administrator, has not yet ruled on the case.
In addition to potentially securing a local supply of fuel for its rockets, SpaceX also used Lone Star to acquire two offshore oil rigs near Boca Chica during the summer of 2020, which the company wants to convert into spaceports for its vehicles, including future iterations of Starship.
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