Australia: Black Mountain Energy & Highwire's fracked gas mining proposal called a "parasitic project"

Jul 08, 2022 | Posted by MadalineDunn

American fracking company Black Mountain's announcement that it will partner with crypto mining firm Highwire to use fracked gas from its planned Valhalla exploration project in Kimberley to power cryptocurrency mining has been met with significant opposition. 

According to Black Mountain, it has received a non-binding Letter of Intent from Highwire Energy Partners LLC to divert methane gas from well-testing at its Valhalla fracking project in the Canning Basin of Western Australia. According to reports, if the proposal went ahead, it would purchase up to 5 terajoules per day (TJ/day) of methane gas from the wellhead to power generators and install up to 25 megawatts (MW) of generation to support operations. The methane gas would otherwise be flared, and the crypto mining company said that through utilizing this process, it would reduce CO2-equivalent emissions by approximately 63 per cent when compared to traditional flaring.

In a conversation with the Market Herald, Black Mountain Energy CEO Rhett Bennett said: "The ability to utilize that gas for power and ultimately create a product, in this form crypto, is a much better solution." However, critics are not so sure.

WA Lock the Gate Alliance coordinator Claire McKinnon, said that this is the "height of arrogance" from Black Mountain and an attempt of "production by stealth" from a "yet to be fully assessed, supposedly exploration fracking project." She added: "The WA McGowan Government is yet to make a decision, yet this Texan fracking company is making claims to the ASX that are so wild they could have been thought up in a Las Vegas hotel room at 2am."

McKinnon outlined that the Kimberley is "too precious to frack full stop" and said that the company must not be allowed to start suggesting "parasitic side projects to leech off its fracked gas and force the unnecessary industrialisation of the Kimberley," especially considering that the WA Government has not yet finished assessing the initially proposed gasfield.

The project would reportedly involve the drilling of 20 frack wells, to begin with, and require at least two billion liters of water. McKinnon said that  Kimberley is home to the "largest area of intact tropical savanna in the world," and expressed serious concern about the impact that fracking and bitcoin mining would have on the area. 

Finally, McKinnon said that if bitcoin miners want to mine bitcoin in Australia, they should be "forced to use renewable energy" rather than utilizing "climate crisis inducing fracked gas."

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