Erik Weijers, 3 months ago

Can Bitcoin mining become carbon neutral?

Bitcoin's energy consumption is a problem in the eyes of many outsiders. What they may not know is that Bitcoin mining is one of the most sustainable industries. New figures of the effect of methane capture, shows that Bitcoin mining is on its way to becoming carbon neutral or even carbon negative.

Every quarter, the Bitcoin Mining Council (BMC) releases survey data on the state of the global BTC mining industry. The most recent report shows that the energy mix of global mining consists of an estimated 59% from renewable sources. Of those companies participating in the BMC (they are mostly in the US), the percentage of electricity they generate sustainably (wind, solar, heat) is now 66%.

Daniel Batten, 'Climate Tech Venture Capitalist', has now taken a stab at mapping the so-called negative emissions of Bitcoin mining. What about this? Some energy sources have a negative effect on the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere. And negative here is a positive term, just like in a test result....

Methane is the culprit

When methane is burned, it does release CO2 but it is a much weaker greenhouse gas than methane itself when simply vented. Methane is 25 times better at retaining heat in the atmosphere than CO2. And that's why it's a good development that Bitcoin miners are being positioned near oil fields. There, the byproduct of extraction, methane, is blown into the air. After all, there's no market for that waste methane until Bitcoin mining appeared on the scene: miners are always scouting cheap or "waste energy" anywhere on the planet. The global Bitcoin network could currently be running on the methane flared into the air in the US state of North Dakota alone.

Currently, according to Daniel Batten's estimate, 1.57% of the bitcoin network runs on methane. So while this percentage is small, it brings the mining industry 4.2% closer to the goal of carbon neutrality. This brings the estimated carbon neutrality rate to 62% for the mining industry as a whole.

The largest absorber of methane is mining company Crusoe Energy (see photo of this article: a Bitcoin mine near an oilfield in Montana). They capture about 400,000 cubic meters of methane, which would otherwise have been vented into the air.

Towards CO2-neutral or even negative

Batten's calculation method implies that if 10% of the Bitcoin mining industry ran on methane, the industry would become CO2 neutral. And then negative emissions would be within reach.

Other opportunities for mining include orphaned oil wells or places where landfill gas or biogas is available.

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