As the value of bitcoin soars and concerns rise about the energy-intensive process needed to obtain it, cryptocurrency entrepreneurs in the United States believe they have found a solution in flared natural gas.
Mining bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies requires masses of computers dedicated to solving deliberately complicated equations.
It’s an endeavour that globally consumes more electricity than entire nations, but these start-ups say the jets of flaming gas placed next to oil wells are perfect power sources.
“I think the market is enormous,” said Sergii Gerasymovych, CEO of EZ Blockchain, which has six different data centres powered off natural gas in the US states of Utah and New Mexico, as well as in Canada.
Across the country, companies like EZ Blockchain are setting up shipping containers where racks containing hundreds of computers mine cryptocurrency, fuelled by natural gas from oil wells that otherwise would be burned in the open.
Interest in their work has grown over the past year. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like ethereum and dogecoin have seen meteoric price spikes since the COVID-19 pandemic turned the global economy on its head and mainstream companies began to embrace the technology.
But a backlash has formed against the digital assets’ energy usage, fuelled by concerns it relies on carbon-emitting power sources that contribute to climate change.
Bitcoin’s big energy problem
Last week, Tesla boss Elon Musk criticised bitcoin’s power consumption, particularly of energy produced from coal, and said he would no longer accept the cryptocurrency as payment for his electric cars.
While entrepreneurs in the