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MIT Research Recognises Advantages of Bitcoin Mining

MIT Explores Environmental Impacts of Bitcoin Mining

The ongoing discussions about the energy-intensive nature of Bitcoin mining have triggered passionate debates. Advocates argue that it provides climate advantages, improves grid stability, reduces methane emissions, and promotes the use of renewable energy. MIT has taken a closer look at these claims.

A recent study conducted by Christian Stoll, Lena Klaaßen, Ulrich Gallersdörfer, and Alexander Neumülle validates arguments from both perspectives and provides insights into the scale and energy origins of Bitcoin mining in the United States.

Explore the complete study here.

The Advantages

According to Bitcoinist, the researchers acknowledge the potential climate benefits linked to Bitcoin mining but emphasize the need for careful examination. Notably, Bitcoin mining demonstrated its capability to contribute to grid stability and resilience during the winter storm Elliott in December 2022.

Bitcoin Miners' demand chart

As per the researchers, “Bitcoin miners curtailed as much as 100 Exahashes per second (EH/s) – equivalent to 38% of the total Bitcoin network hashrate on that day.” This occurrence supports the notion that Bitcoin mining can serve as a resource for grid operators, adjusting its power usage swiftly to offer stability during periods of high demand or grid stress.

The study also explores the potential of Bitcoin mining in reducing methane emissions, especially from flaring. Advocates like Dennis Porter argue that by utilizing wasted flare gas in electrical generators, emissions can be significantly reduced.

According to industry estimates cited by the researchers, carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions could potentially be reduced by 25% compared to open flares, and up to 63% when accounting for flare outages. However, recent studies suggest lower flare efficiency than previously assumed, leading to a smaller reduction in methane emissions than initially anticipated.

Another advantage of Bitcoin mining lies in its potential to address the issue of orphaned and unplugged oil and gas wells. The researchers highlight that there are approximately 3,700,000 abandoned wells in the U.S. as of 2020, with 59% remaining unplugged and emitting around 6.9 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) annually.

MIT’s research emphasizes that mining, due to its location-agnostic nature and minimal local resource requirements, could offer a solution to this problem. By operating near orphaned wells, miners can convert wasted energy into electricity, generate revenue, and support well-sealing efforts, all while mitigating the climate impact.

A fourth benefit of Bitcoin mining is its potential to facilitate the expansion of renewable energy resources. The researchers acknowledge that mining in remote locations can help address challenges related to integrating intermittent renewable energy sources into power grids.

They explain, “Renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, are characterized by intermittency, resulting in volatile and non-controllable electricity production,” further adding, “A higher and more stable demand for renewable electricity may support its expansion by driving down production costs through economies of scale.”

The Drawbacks

Based on the MIT researchers’ findings, Bitcoin mining demands a substantial amount of energy. They highlight that as of March 25th, 2023, the power demand of Bitcoin miners reaches 15.4 gigawatts (GW). This data underscores the growing concerns about the environmental impact and energy-intensive nature of mining.

The researchers further investigate the carbon intensity of electricity used by miners in the United States. Contrary to claims within the industry suggesting significant reliance on sustainable energy, the study reveals that the carbon intensity is almost on par with the U.S. grid average.

“The carbon intensity of electricity consumed…is 397 gCO2/kWh, nearly equivalent to the U.S. grid average of 387 gCO2/kWh.” This discovery challenges the perception that the majority of BTC mining (58.9%) relies on renewable sources.

Additionally, the study sheds light on the considerable carbon emissions attributed to a subset of publicly listed mining companies in the U.S. The researchers report that the 13 analyzed publicly listed miners in the U.S. alone cause annual emissions of 7.2 MtCO2, surpassing the carbon emissions of the State of Vermont.

U.S. Bitcoin Mining Hash rate distribution


MIT researchers have conducted a thorough examination of the pros and cons associated with BTC mining. The data emphasizes the substantial energy consumption and carbon footprint linked to mining operations. Although the study recognizes potential climate benefits such as grid stability, reduction of methane emissions, well sealing, and expansion of renewable energy, the researchers stress the need for additional research in this field:

“We find that the potential climate benefits of Bitcoin mining also warrant closer attention. Financial incentives of the Bitcoin network may, for instance, subsidize the sealing of orphaned and unplugged wells, and thereby, reduce methane emissions at scale.”

Let’s hope that further analysis and research can shed greater light on Bitcoin Mining and its impact on the environment, enhancing the positive aspects behind grid balancing, methane mitigating benefits of Bitcoin, and more.

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