Russia's Gazprom Neft is using bypass gas at an oilfield in West Siberia to power mining operations of a very different sort.
The state-controlled oil giant has unveiled the initial results of an ongoing experiment being undertaken at the Zhagrina field to produce electricity that is then being used on site to mine Bitcoin cryptocurrency.
According to Russian digital currency web journal Forklog, a dedicated gas burning generator installed on the field consumed about 50,000 cubic metres of bypass gas last month.
The generator produced enough electricity to create 1.8 new Bitcoins for unidentified private investors — which equates to gross revenues of about $60,000 based on current exchange rates.
Gazprom Neft said that the initiative will use the excess bypass gas to comply with Russian environmental requirements, while also providing low-cost electricity to potential Bitcoin miners.
It has charged miners at the Zhagrina field less than 3 roubles (4 US cents) per single kilowatt, which is almost two times lower than they would pay in Moscow or St Petersburg.
The Zhagrina project is administered by St Petersburg-based IT provider Vekus, which has offered private investors to lease company-operated Bitcoin mining equipment or install their own units in a container that was shipped to the field.
According to Vekus, when fully populated with mining units, each container may consume an equivalent of between 200,000 and 250,000 cubic metres of bypass gas per month, enough to generate about eight Bitcoins.
Bitcoin hit new highs against major world currencies this month, with many analysts linking its meteoric rise to excessive cash subsidies provided by governments of industrialised countries to help businesses stay afloat amid the Covid-19 pandemic.