Casper-based startup mines cryptocurrency using stranded natural gas | Energy Journal

Technology company Highwire Energy Partners installs equipment at a gas plant in the Big Horn Basin. The firm captures stranded natural gas to use at onsite data centers.

A Casper-based startup has been steadily deploying power generators to Wyoming well sites to capture stranded natural gas and use it for cryptocurrency mining.

The idea to utilize gas for data processing that would otherwise be burned or disposed of by energy operators was hatched by co-founders Will Reese and Kris Holbrook. Early last year, they launched Highwire Energy Partners, LLC.

The pair have been deeply enmeshed in the state’s oil and gas industry and wanted to provide a solution to gas flaring, or the process of burning off excess gas.

The technology works like this: Highwire Energy Partners takes excess natural gas, converts it into electricity on a well site and then uses that power for energy-intensive data computing.

Highwire Energy Partners rents power generators from a Casper-based company to process the stranded gas.

That power is then funneled to a data center housing computing equipment right there at the wellsite. The computing power can then be used to mine for cryptocurrencies, or encrypted digital currencies like Bitcoin.

“We think we’re onto something here,” Reese said.

To energy producers and public officials, flaring is an often unavoidable step in oil exploration and production. Rather than venting natural gas into the air, operators flare, or burn, it.

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Operators usually plan to build a pipeline for the gas if a site proves productive. But there’s often a period of time between when production starts and when a midstream company arrives to build a pipeline.

Energy Journal

A stack flares excess gas along Highway 59 north of Douglas on Feb. 16. A startup in Casper is taking excess gas and using it to power data computing, rather than flaring it. 

What’s more, to persuade midstream pipeline companies to take a risk and invest in an unexplored area, operators want to test out wells and collect data. Companies will likely not make the investment in a pipeline if there are too many unknowns.

Flaring also emits climate-warming pollutants including volatile organic compounds, carbon dioxide, soot and other contaminants that can compromise local air quality.

Using the tech firm’s solution, the stranded gas is instead converted to electricity and then used to process data onsite. That means costly infrastructure like pipelines or processing plants for transporting the excess natural gas are no longer needed.

To Reese, Wyoming is the perfect place to roll out the technology.

The company has installed the technology all over the state, he explained.

“We have a number of units running on the very southern part of the state, and we have units running on the very northern part of the state,” he said. “We have a pretty wide dispersion at this point. It’s expanding pretty aggressively right now.”

Though the team does have some plans in other states, the company said it plans to stick close to home for the most part.

“Wyoming is the place we call home and this is where we would like to see this technology take off,” he said. “Our big goal is to expand and utilize this technology as much as we can. But first and foremost, that is and always will be Wyoming.”

Follow the latest on Wyoming’s energy industry and the environment at @camillereports