North Dakota’s oil-rich state turns to Bitcoin miners

Atlas Power, a bitcoin mining company, wants to convert North Dakota’s oil fields into a $1.9 billion data centre that produces cryptocurrency, local news source In Forum reported last week.

The Williston data centre will be built in three stages and is expected to be one of the biggest in the United States. FX Solutions (the corporation responsible for the site’s construction) anticipates it will be operational at full capacity by 2024.

Atlas Power, based in Singapore, plans to generate up to 700 megawatts of energy at full capacity, with 65 percent of that capacity devoted to cryptocurrency mining.

The remaining, according to press materials, will go into data storage, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

Riot Blockchain, a rival, presently mines cryptocurrency with a maximum of 91 megawatts, according to its website.

Atlas Mining is a subsidiary of Fundamental Labs, a Shanghai-based cryptocurrency firm. It mostly mined cryptocurrency from China until last year’s crackdown, when it committed to relocating its Bitcoin operations to the United States.

Atlas Mining now maintains a solar-powered 75-megawatt data centre in neighbouring Montana. Governor Doug Burgum of North Dakota said the decision would help reinforce the state’s “increasing status as a worldwide data centre powerhouse.”

North Dakota is the second-largest producer of oil in the United States. Williston’s population expanded by 83 percent in a decade as a result of the booming fracking sector.

However, since 2014, falling oil prices have harmed the economy, which was previously flourishing. According to FX Solutions CEO Richard Tabish, the North Dakota Bitcoin hub’s development would need more than 100 employees and will ultimately sustain at least 30 permanent positions.

“This is a significant investment,” Burgum remarked. According to the Associated Press, Burgum is a “rich former Microsoft executive.”

According to reports, he referred to data centres as a “amazing forward-thinking business that is not reliant on the price of oil.”

North Dakota’s winters are very cold, which may help crypto mining operations keep cooling expenses low.

However, the developers said that they opted to break ground in the state owing to the anticipated speed with which the facility may be operational.

Nonetheless, Bitcoin mining operations — notably in Europe and Eurasia — have suffered in the face of power shortages.

Bitcoin miners in Kazakhstan, Kosovo, and Iceland have all been forced to scale down their operations or completely shut down.

As a result, Atlas Power is attempting to dispel negative associations with large-scale Bitcoin mining by turning carbon-neutral. It is unclear how this will be accomplished.

In 2019, 61.1 percent of North Dakota’s electricity was produced by coal, 27.3 percent by wind, and the remaining by natural gas (3.7 percent) and other sources (0.2 percent) – implying that any Bitcoin mined would be created using a similar combination.

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