A proponent of crypto mining sees green business in abandoned gas wells

Photo illustration of Satoshi Action Fund CEO Dennis Porter next to a data center full of cryptocurrency mining

Dennis Porter, of the Satoshi Stock Fund. Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Mark Felix/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A new advocate for bitcoin miners, the Satoshi Action Fund, believes that insuring the oldest cryptocurrency could be an effective way to finance a long-standing environmental problem in the United States: orphan gas wells.

Why it matters: In 2021, the Environmental Protection Fund published a map of 81,000 wells without owner records. While federal funds are available to help plug these wells, it’s still a daunting task.

  • Dennis Porter, the organization’s founder, advocates a policy where bitcoin miners should jump in, use the last remaining gas for mining, then seal the well and move on.

Starting News: On Wednesday, the organization held its first presentation in the halls of the US Congress, in the Senate briefing room, in front of 30 to 40 people from about 10 congressional offices.

  • The nascent group, which has been active since June 2022, has made presentations to state legislators across the country.

What they say: Porter’s message to lawmakers was, “Bitcoin mining is a business that also serves as part of the network infrastructure,” he said in an interview. “It’s particularly good at reducing methane emissions and improving green energy projects.”

In the weeds: The EPA has extensively researched the impact of abandoned oil and gas wells in the US, and its estimates show that they account for about 8.7% of the methane released here.

  • Methane is many, many times worse from a climate change perspective than carbon dioxide (CO2), so every kiloton of methane that is not emitted matters a lot.
  • The research shows that federal funding, as it stands, is unlikely to be enough to plug all the leaking wells, so any mechanism to push it further could be useful.
  • In Porter’s vision, the policy would protect the miners who take responsibility for the well, allow them to operate the mine with whatever fuel they can still access, and then properly cap and seal it so that any remaining gas remains underground.

Remark: Mining operations really would get to the well.

  • Small-scale bitcoin mining operations can simply be loaded into a mobile shipping container, as has already been done with flared natural gas at some active wells.

What is next: The Satoshi Action Fund is introducing model legislation across the country to advance the idea of ​​recruiting bitcoin miners to cap wells.

  • Taking over a well raises complex liability issues, which is why Porter advocates for state legislation that would make miners’ risks more predictable.
  • “It’s a win-win-win for everyone,” he says. “It’s a clear win for the environment. It’s a clear win for the economy. And it’s a clear win for those states that don’t have to spend taxpayer dollars to plug these abandoned oil and gas wells.”

What we watch: The group works across the country, but has gained the most attention in Missouri and Mississippi.

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