A view of the Exxon Mobil refinery in Baytown, Texas.
Jessica Rinaldi | Reuters
For over a year, Exxon has been working with Crusoe Energy Systems, a company based in Denver, said the people who asked not to be named because details of the project are confidential. Crusoe’s technology helps oil companies turn wasted energy, or flare gas, into a useful resource.
Similar to ConocoPhillips‘ mining scheme in North Dakota’s Bakken region, Exxon is diverting natural gas that would otherwise be burned off into generators, which convert the gas into electricity used to power shipping containers full of thousands of bitcoin miners. Exxon launched the pilot in late January 2021 and expanded its buildout in July.
While Exxon hasn’t talked publicly about its work in the space, Eric Obrock, a 10-year veteran at the company, said on his LinkedIn profile that from February 2019 to January 2022, he “proposed and led the first successful commercial and technical demonstration of using Bitcoin Proof-of-Work mining as a viable alternative to natural gas flaring in the oil patch.”
Obrock’s title on his profile is NGL industry outlook advisor, referring to the natural gas liquids market. Obrock told CNBC through a LinkedIn message that he’s been advised that he can’t speak to the media on this topic. Exxon didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Exxon’s bitcoin project isn’t really about making money from the cryptocurrency. Rather, the company has pledged to reduce emissions as part of an industrywide effort to meet higher environmental demands. In early March, Exxon joined other oil companies in committing to the World Bank’s “Zero Routine Flaring by 2030” initiative introduced in 2015.
The type of crypto mining arrangement it’s pursuing with Crusoe reduces CO2-equivalent emissions by about 63% compared with continued flaring.
Exxon’s bitcoin mining work in North Dakota was first reported by Bloomberg, which said the company is also considering similar pilots in Alaska, the Qua Iboe Terminal in Nigeria, Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale field, Guyana and Germany.
The problem Exxon and Conoco are addressing has existed for years: What happens when drillers accidentally hit a natural gas formation?
Unlike oil, which can be trucked out to a remote destination, gas delivery requires a pipeline. If a drilling site is close to a pipeline, producers can sell it right away. But if the pipe is full or if the gas is 20 miles away, drillers often burn it off. That’s why you typically see flames rising from oil fields.
In addition to the environmental hazards, drillers are also burning cash.
Enter bitcoin mining, which only requires an internet connection and can be done from anywhere. And because miners’ primary variable cost is energy, they’re incentivized to find the cheapest sources of power.
“This is just a great way to bring that demand to the wasted energy and solve two problems at once,” said Cully Cavness, president of Crusoe, whose backers include Valor Equity Partners, one of Tesla‘s largest investors. “Solve the energy appetite of bitcoin and solve the stranded energy, flare gas problem for the energy industry.”
Permits from North Dakota’s Division of Air Quality show Crusoe can run 20 portable engines, with 11 currently in use at well sites across the state. Two of the engines are operational at wells run by XTO Energy, Exxon’s oil and gas fracking subsidiary, at the Jorgenson Deep Creek Site. Cavness said most of Crusoe’s 80-plus data centers are deployed in the Bakken.
“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.”
The World Bank, in its most recent Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership report, recognized Crusoe as offering an innovative solution to flaring.
The Bakken formation became an important source of new oil production in the U.S. in the last couple decades with the boom in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Craig Thorstenson has been working at the permitting program at North Dakota’s Division of Air Quality since 1989. He says North Dakota has always been an oil state to some extent, but growth in the Bakken lifted the state to second in the country, before it slipped to third last year.
Thorstenson, who was born and raised in Bismarck, the state capital, said the change “was quite a shock for us.” Residential housing couldn’t keep up with demand.
“We were having a population boom,” Thorstenson said. “People coming in, wanting to get jobs. People living in the Walmart parking lots.”
More drilling meant more wasted gas, which affected the entire Williston Basin that spreads across part of Montana, the Dakotas and into Canada. That’s a big reason why Crusoe invested heavily in the area.
“At points in not-that-distant history, the basin was flaring almost up to a fifth of the gas that was being produced there,” said Cavness.
Thorstenson said the amount of wasted natural gas is finally trending lower. In a March report, North Dakota’s Department of Natural Resources estimated that currently 93% to 94% of natural gas is being captured. In 2014, the commission had a capture goal of 74%.
Drillers have historically chosen flaring as a way to dispose of excess gas because it’s less damaging to the environment than venting, which releases methane directly into the air and produces greenhouse effects that have proven to be 84 to 86 times as powerful as CO2 over a 20-year period.
Even with flaring, some methane does escape due to wind and other factors. On-site bitcoin mining can be especially impactful, because 100% of the methane is combusted and none of it leaks or vents into the air, according to Adam Ortolf, who runs business development in the U.S. for Upstream Data, a company that manufactures and supplies portable mining solutions for oil and gas facilities.
“Nobody will run it through a generator unless they can make money, because generators cost money to acquire and maintain,” Ortolf said. “So unless it’s economically sustainable, producers won’t internally combust the gas.”
Crusoe’s systems are built to make the process financially viable for drillers. The company brings its equipment onto the oil pad, allowing it to convert otherwise wasted natural gas into electricity, which then powers computing at the well site.
“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.”
Cavness said his main takeaway from the United Nations’ latest global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, was that methane is the low-hanging fruit.
“That’s the thing we want to solve as an energy industry,” he said.
OPEC+ to consider oil cut of over than 1 million barrels per day
OPEC+ will consider an oil output cut of more than a million barrels per day (bpd) next week, OPEC sources said on Sunday.
Omar Marques | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images
OPEC+ will consider an oil output cut of more than a million barrels per day (bpd) next week, OPEC sources said on Sunday, in what would be the biggest move yet since the Covid-19 pandemic to address oil market weakness.
The meeting will take place on Oct. 5 against the backdrop of falling oil prices and months of severe market volatility which prompted top OPEC+ producer, Saudi Arabia, to say the group could cut production.
OPEC+, which combines OPEC countries and allies such as Russia, has refused to raise output to lower oil prices despite pressure from major consumers, including the United States, to help the global economy.
Prices have nevertheless fallen sharply in the last month due to fears about the global economy and a rally in the U.S. dollar after the Federal Reserves raised rates.
A significant production cut is poised to anger the United States, which has been putting pressure on Saudi Arabia to continue pumping more to help oil prices soften further and reduce revenues for Russia as the West seeks to punish Moscow for sending troops to Ukraine.
The West accuses Russia of invading Ukraine, but the Kremlin calls it a special military operation.
Saudi Arabia has not condemned Moscow’s actions amid difficult relations with the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden.
Last week, a source familiar with the Russian thinking said Moscow would like to see OPEC+ cutting 1 million bpd or one percent of global supply.
That would be the biggest cut since 2020 when OPEC+ reduced output by a record 10 million bpd as demand crashed due to the Covid pandemic. The group spent the next two years unwinding those record cuts.
On Sunday, the sources said the cut could exceed 1 million bpd. One of the sources suggested cuts could also include a voluntary additional reduction of production by Saudi Arabia.
OPEC+ will meet in person in Vienna for the first time since March 2020.
Analysts and OPEC watchers such as UBS and JPMorgan have suggested in recent days a cut of around 1 million bpd was on the cards and could help arrest the price decline.
“$90 oil is non-negotiable for the OPEC+ leadership, hence they will act to safeguard this price floor,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.
Avoid these 5 activities during a thunderstorm, says meteorologist
When it’s raining outside and thunder follows, it’s likely that lightning is pretty close behind and there are some places you shouldn’t be for your own safety — mostly outdoors.
“When thunder roars, go indoors and stay there for 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder,” the National Weather Service advises in its lightning safety rules. The greatest potential harm during a thunderstorm is lightning.
You might think getting struck by lightning is only possible if you’re outside, and that you’re completely safe as long as you’re at home, but that isn’t always the case, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The agency reports that “about one-third of lightning-strike injuries occur indoors.”
And while you may have seen advice against showering during a thunderstorm trending in the news, there are other activities you should avoid doing at home until after a storm passes as well, according to John Homenuk, a meteorologist and founder of New York Metro Weather.
Homenuk, the National Weather Service and the CDC all recommend avoiding doing these activities at home during a lightning storm:
- Taking a shower
- Washing dishes
- Standing near windows, doors, porches and concrete
- Touching electronic equipment connected to an electrical outlet (i.e. computers, laptops, game systems, washers, dryers or stoves)
- Using corded phones
Stay away from water
As a starting point, Homenuk warns against being near or in water during a thunderstorm.
Showering, bathing or washing dishes can all pose a risk if lightning is occurring near your home.
“When lightning happens, it generally travels on the path of least resistance, which is often going to take it into metal which can go through the pipes,” he says. “And obviously that would not be great if you were in the shower.”
The CDC states that the risk of lightning traveling through your plumbing is lower for those with plastic pipes as opposed to metal pipes.
However, the agency still advises you to “avoid any contact with plumbing and running water during a lightning storm to reduce your risk of being struck.”
Washing dishes may pose a lower risk than taking a bath or a shower because your whole body isn’t submerged in water or standing directly under a metal showerhead as the pipes are running, says Homenuk.
“But still, generally if you can, you [should] wait for the storm to pass instead of utilizing the water and the pipes that can be a pathway for that electricity to travel,” he notes.
Consider these criteria when deciding where to wait out a storm indoors, Homenuk says:
- Is the building sturdy?
- Am I away from all the windows?
- Am I standing near interior walls in my home, instead of the outer walls?
But if you get caught in the middle of a thunderstorm outside, make sure that you’re not near water, standing near or under a tree or on tall objects, he adds. These locations make you less safe during a storm.
Additionally, if you’re unable to get home during a bad lightning storm, your car can offer you some safety,
“It’s a good secondary option,” he says. “But if there’s a store or another building that you can get to that’s not your home, then that’s also a good option.”
Homenuk commonly hears that being parked under an underpass during a severe storm poses a potential risk.
“That is not safe. In fact, when there are strong winds, the winds can actually be stronger and more dangerous underneath those underpasses because they can funnel through with greater speed,” he says. “It also creates a tremendous traffic hazard.”
And if you notice flooding, do not try to drive through it because your car can get stuck, Homenuk warns. It may be a lot deeper than what meets the eye.
Above all else, if you can do so safely, Homenuk says, “trying to be indoors during a thunderstorm is the best thing.”
The 10 least popular U.S. states to move to in 2022
A recently released report, moveBuddha, a relocation tech company, ranked the least popular states to move to in 2022.
The 2022 Mid-Year Migration Report used data collected from January 1 to July 5, 2022, via the company’s moving cost calculator.
moveBuddha compared the inflow to the outflow of people state to state to see which places are gaining new residents and which are losing their current population.
In-to-out ratio: 0.50
New Jersey topped the list of least popular states. According to the report, the Garden State is losing the most residents compared to those moving in.
Residents in the East Coast state pay the country’s highest property taxes, which may account for the loss in population.
The two other states that make up the New York metropolitan area — New York and Connecticut — are experiencing similar challenges as New Jersey.
Both made the list of states that people are moving out of more than they’re moving in, at no. 4 and no. 5 on the list respectively.
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