What do you do with excess natural gas if you are one of the world's biggest providers of energy sources?
Exxon Mobil has come up with an inventive solution, according to a new report by Bloomberg published Thursday. It's taking the excess natural gas that would otherwise be burned off from North Dakota oil wells and using it to power cryptocurrency mining operations.
Is this an improvement?
Powering Bitcoin minings servers
According to sources that asked to remain anonymous, the oil giant has started a pilot project in cooperation with Crusoe Energy Systems Inc. to take gas from an oil well pad in the Bakken shale basin to power Bitcoin mining servers. The initiative began back in January 2021. It is estimated that the project makes use of up to 18 million cubic feet of gas per month that would have otherwise been wasted due to a lack of pipelines.
“We continuously evaluate emerging technologies aimed at reducing flaring volumes across our operations,” Exxon Mobil spokeswoman Sarah Nordin said in an email to Bloomberg. She also added that the firm expects to meet the World Bank’s call to end routine flaring by 2030 but refused to comment on “rumors and speculations regarding the pilot project.”
Reducing carbon emissions
As oil and gas producers face increasing public pressure to reduce the carbon emissions associated with their activities, the new pilot project might be welcomed. It, of course, does not reduce the emissions of Exxon Mobil's activities but it does ensure that greenhouse gas emissions are not simply created as waste. They are now the result of a useful activity: mining Bitcoin.
Bitcoin mining is a very energy-intensive process consuming more electricity than even entire countries. Thus, it could easily be argued that using the gas to power the activity is better than just wasting it even if the process still produces nefarious emissions.
Danielle Fugere, president of As You Sow, an environmental shareholder-activist group, told Bloomberg that Exxon Mobil's new initiative is a step in the right direction. “It is creating use of what would be otherwise wasted,” she said. However, an even better alternative, said Fugere is if the company focused on transitioning away from fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, the anonymous sources also revealed that Exxon Mobil was considering similar pilots in Alaska, Nigeria, Argentina, Guyana, and Germany. Could this be the new trend for oil and gas producers?