The oil and gas company ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest, has reportedly begun reinvesting natural gas produced at an operating site in North Dakota to power Bitcoin (BTC) mining systems. A solution that Exxon would like to develop internationally, according to people close to the company.
ExxonMobil to contribute to Bitcoin mining
ExxonMobil, the largest oil company in the United States, is reportedly using its excess natural gas to fuel Bitcoin (BTC) mining systems in North Dakota. Usually, this gas is burned directly around oil wells, a technique commonly known as “flaring”.
According to people close to the company who wished to remain anonymous, Exxon would have concluded an agreement with Crusoe Energy Systems Inc, a company specialized in flaring reduction solutions for major oil companies.
This partnership would already be effective and would already allow Exxon to power generators for Bitcoin mining thanks to an oil well located in the Bakken shale basin in the North Dakota region.
Underway since January 2021, this project would already allow for the reuse of some of the natural gas produced at the site, which would usually be flared or burned due in part to a lack of a pipeline to get it to another location such as a power plant, for example.
Still according to one of the sources close to the company, Exxon would like to reproduce this type of program internationally, in particular in Nigeria, Guyana, Germany and in the Vaca Muerta oil field located in Argentina.
When asked by Bloomberg, Exxon spokeswoman Sarah Nordin refused to comment on the various speculations surrounding this project, but said:
“We are constantly evaluating emerging technologies that could allow us to reduce our flaring volume across our various businesses.”
The environmental burden of mining
Players in the oil and gas industry are under pressure and obligation regarding their operations, especially regarding their carbon footprint, which is often accused of actively participating in global warming.
In the case of Exxon and others, for example, they must reduce the amount of gas they flare. The gas currently produced from shale operations contains a large proportion of methane, a gas that is 80 times more harmful to the environment during its first 20 years in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
Thus, the best solution seems to be to reuse the gas produced to use it as productive energy, for example via the Bitcoin mining needed for Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus.
According to a landmark study by the University of Cambridge, Bitcoin mining would currently consume about 138 TWh annually, which is 7 TWh more than the energy needed to mine physical gold, in comparison. Furthermore, if Bitcoin were a country, it would consume more than Norway, Ukraine, Switzerland or the United Arab Emirates.
However, according to a recent report by CoinShares, the carbon emissions related to Bitcoin mining would only account for 0.08% of the total global share, which is still objectively negligible.