Exxon Mobil puts its wasted "flare gas" to good use. By mining bitcoin?

It makes use of gas that would normally just be burned off.
Loukia Papadopoulos

ExxonMobil has been working with Crusoe Energy Systems, a company based in Denver, to turn wasted energy, or flare gas, into electricity used to power thousands of bitcoin miners, as reported by CNBC on Saturday.

The sources of the new information wanted to remain anonymous they did however note that the pilot bitcoin mining program, which is operating in the Bakken region, launched in late January 2021 and had begun growing by July.

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No longer burned off

The new venture aims to make use of the natural gas often burned off by drillers because, in addition to it being an environmental hazard, drillers are also burning money.

This is where bitcoin mining becomes quite an opportunity since it only requires an internet connection and can be done from anywhere.

“This is just a great way to bring that demand to the wasted energy and solve two problems at once,” told CNBC Cully Cavness, president of Crusoe. “Solve the energy appetite of bitcoin and solve the stranded energy, flare gas problem for the energy industry.”

Cavness added that most of Crusoe’s 80-plus data centers are all now conveniently located in the Bakken region ensuring they make good use of the energy resulting from flare gas.

“We’re really moving the needle on flared volumes,” Cavness said. “More than 10 million cubic feet of gas per day that would be flared is not flared because we’ve deployed our systems.”

Previous to this partnership with Exxon Mobil and Crusoe, plenty of gas was being wasted. This waste affected the entire Williston Basin that spreads across part of Montana, the Dakotas, and into Canada. So Crusoe decided to invest heavily in the area.

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“At points in not-that-distant history, the basin was flaring almost up to a fifth of the gas that was being produced there,” explained Cavness.

And their efforts seem to be paying off. In a March statementNorth Dakota’s Department of Natural Resources stipulated that 93% to 94% of natural gas is being captured and reused. 

No methane combusted

On-site bitcoin mining also ensures that no methane is combusted. Methane is a hydrocarbon that is a primary component of natural gas and that is particularly damaging to the environment.

“When we put it through our generator, we get up to 99.9% combustion of that methane,” Cavness said. “Not only are we using the otherwise wasted energy, we’re also significantly reducing methane emissions.”

Of course, it would be better if Exxon Mobil was focusing on diverting away from fossil fuels but regardless this new use of their flares is still a small step in the right direction.