reduce methane emissions flare gas bitcoin

How Can Bitcoin Mining Help Reduce Methane Emissions?

Bitcoin can help reduce methane emissions by capturing waste methane at the source from industrial processes including agricultural and dairy farming, landfills and fossil fuel production of oil and gas.1

In remote, off grid locations, if methane producing operations are unable to capture and sell excess methane, it is either vented or flared… 

Instead, new companies are helping to eliminate waste methane and monetize it by converting the greenhouse gas into hash rate for the bitcoin network.

Why Is Methane Gas Flared?

Flaring occurs in oil and gas production for regulatory, safety, economic and technical reasons. 

While the practice is relatively safe, flaring is not ideal because greenhouse gas emissions come not only from methane, but also carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. 

When waste methane is vented or flared, it creates two problems:

  1. Waste of Energy: Methane is a valuable energy resource that can be harnessed for use in natural gas. 
  2. Incremental Emissions: Whether methane is vented or flared, the result is incremental emissions not only of methane, but also carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulates, which compound the problem of global warming.

Methane has approximately 80 times the global warming potential (GWP) of CO2 over a 20 year period… As such, it’s a powerful greenhouse gas that incentivizes us to curtail excess methane emissions.

Venting is worse than flaring, however flaring results in incremental carbon dioxide pollution.

Flaring is only around 91-92% efficient, meaning that 8-9% of methane is still released into the atmosphere. The remainder is burned and released as CO2, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

By harnessing 100% of waste methane for mechanical purposes, the gas can be used to create electricity, providing computing power for data centers and bitcoin miners.

Reduce Methane Emissions With Bitcoin Mining Co-Location

The International Energy Agency reports that global methane emissions from the energy sector may be up to 70% greater than national governments admit… 

As such, innovative approaches are needed to reduce methane emissions.

The U.S. Department of Energy lists that a variety of technologies that are available for methane capture for local power generation, including reciprocating engines and gas turbines, such as those being employed by mobile, waste to energy bitcoin mining companies.

Bitcoin miners use waste gas to create electrical power using small-scale generators which is described by the U.S. DoE as one method to productively reduce methane emissions.

Giga Energy Giga Box
Giga Box from Giga Energy (Credit: Giga Energy)

While oil and gas producers are required at the state level to manage the amount of flaring that they do, and the amount of the venting that happens, from a compliance standpoint, it’s often preferable to utilize financial incentives for businesses rather than rely on the threat of regulation.

Luckily, companies – such as those described below – are developing new solutions to harness waste methane, whether on grid or off grid, and convert it into Bitcoin. 

  • Vespene Energy: Uses micro-turbines for harnessing waste methane from municipal landfills to generate electricity needed to mine bitcoin. Vespene creates an incremental revenue stream for landfill owners, with zero cost to the municipality.
  • Upstream Data: Develops turnkey data centers to generate electricity from waste methane that would otherwise be vented or flared. Data centers are portable and may be easily moved from one location to another as natural gas volumes decline. 
  • Giga Energy: Helps fossil fuel manufacturers in the oil and gas industries capture waste methane to mine bitcoin. 
  • Crusoe Energy: Helping the oil, gas and renewables industries capture and monetize waste methane. Also helping renewable energy power producers meet grid supply and demand imbalances while monetizing surplus energy and providing demand response.
  • Northern Immersion: Installs and manages mobile, flare gas powered, immersion-cooled data centers in the Bakken in North Dakota.

Bitcoin waste to energy companies reduce methane emissions by turning this waste product into monetary value and creating an incremental revenue stream where there was just a cost center before.

One additional advantage to mining bitcoin with waste methane as opposed to a grid connected system, such as from renewables or natural gas, is uptime. Grid connected bitcoin miners participate in demand response programs that voluntarily curtail when electricity prices are high and to provide incremental electricity to the grid during times of peak demand. 

When miners are curtailing, they are not mining bitcoin. This is unlikely to happen with flare gas, meaning the return on investment (bitcoins earned) is likely to be higher, relatively speaking.

Recent Financial Incentives For Methane Emissions Reduction

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that was recently passed includes financial incentives for reducing methane emissions, as well as tax credits for green hydrogensolar developmentenergy storage and more. 

The Methane Emissions Reduction Program, originally crafted by the Senate Environment and Public Works Chair, Thomas R. Carper (D. Delaware), updated in the IRA, now provides $1.5 billion in incentives to companies to reduce methane emissions.

As bitcoin mines can absorb excess methane and convert it to hash power, this creates a new financial incentive to reduce methane emissions, whether from dairy farming, oil and gas or municipal landfills.

Footnotes

  1. Methane (CH4) accounts for approximately 11% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, including raising livestock, oil and gas production, agriculture and landfills. 50-65% of methane globally is from human activities, the remainder is emitted by natural sources such as wetlands, termites, oceans, sediments, volcanoes and wildfires. Livestock farmers may also use methane digesters to capture methane using anaerobic digestion.
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