With frackers gone, oil-rich North Dakota turns to Bitcoin miners

In North Dakota, a 77-acre data center is pegged to become one of the largest Bitcoin mining facilities in the US... eventually.

Bitcoin mining firm Atlas Power wants to turn North Dakota’s oil fields into a $1.9 billion data center that generates crypto, reported local outlet In Forum last week.

The Williston hub will be constructed across three phases and is set to be one of the largest data centers in the US. FX Solutions (the company in charge of building the site) expects it will run at full scale by 2024.

At full capacity, Singapore-headquartered Atlas Power hopes to draw as much as 700 megawatts of electricity, with 65% of that power dedicated to crypto mining.

The remainder will be directed toward data storage, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, press materials say.

For scale, competitor Riot Blockchain currently wields at most 91 megawatts to mine crypto, according to its website.

Atlas Mining is a subsidiary of Shanghai-based crypto fund Fundamental Labs. It mostly mined crypto out of China until last year’s crackdown, after which the company pledged to move its Bitcoin operations to the US.

Atlas Mining currently operates a 75-megawatt, solar-powered data center in nearby Montana.

North Dakota governor Doug Burgum said the move will help solidify the state’s “growing reputation as a global hub for data centers.”

North Dakota is the second-largest oil-producing state in the US. A burgeoning fracking industry increased Williston’s population by 83% in a decade.

But since 2014, weakening oil prices have wounded the once-booming economy. FX Solutions president Richard Tabish believes construction of the North Dakota Bitcoin hub needs more than 100 workers and will eventually support at least 30 permanent roles.

“This is a major investment that’s occurring,” said Burgum (via In Forum), who Associated Press described as a “wealthy former Microsoft executive.”

He reportedly called data centers an “incredible forward-looking industry not dependent on the price of oil.”

Cold weather a plus for Bitcoin miners in North Dakota

North Dakota suffers frigid winters, which could help crypto mining outfits keep cooling costs down.

But the developers said they chose to break ground in the state due to the speed at which they reckon the facility can be up and running.

Still, Bitcoin mining outfits — particularly those across Europe and Eurasia — have struggled amid power shortages.

Bitcoin miners in Kazakhstan, Kosovo, and Iceland have all had to endure either reduced activity or total shutdowns.

Read more: [Secret Bitcoin miners in China could still make up 20% of global hashrate]

So, Atlas Power is of course looking to shake negative connotations associated with large-scale Bitcoin mining by going carbon-neutral. It’s unclear exactly how this will be achieved.

In 2019, 61.1% of power in North Dakota came from coal, 27.3% from wind, with the remainder coming from natural gas (3.7%) and other means (0.2%) — so it’s likely any Bitcoin mined would be generated by a similar mix.

Follow us on Twitter for more crypto news.