PRTI and Standard American Mining have successfully built the world’s first waste-to-energy crypto mine. Photo: Medium

An entrepreneurial cryptocurrency mining company has teamed up with the US firm that converts waste tires to energy, to power its cryptocurrency mining computers.

PRTI, a tire “thermal demanufacturing” company located in North Carolina, announced an unusual deal with Standard American Mining are running graphics cards-based cryptocurrency mining equipment to get several alternative cryptocurrencies, including Ethereum.

To convert waste tires into energy, one heats them to a specific temperature when tires start decomposing. Using tire pyrolysis or thermolysis process helps extract resources such as steel, burnable fuel and carbon black. The extracted fuel serves as the energy source powering turbines which, in turn, produce electricity. Thus, an onsite cryptocurrency mining farm gets its power supply.

The method of an underutilized electricity being used as a means to power computers isn’t new. However, the uncommon set-up proves that cryptocurrency mining brings substantial profit, and alternative sources of both cheap and clean energy are now in demand.

As a process, cryptocurrency mining requires a lot of electricity, as it secures transactions and generates new tokens. To carry out one Bitcoin transaction, it is possible to spend as much energy on mining, as it would be required to power the typical US household for a week or even more.

No wonder, the figure is alarming. The price greatly affects most cryptocurrencies’ total electricity consumption. With the price increasing, more miners will make efforts to claim new coins as mining rewards, which will create additional electricity consumption.

If the price keeps on increasing, the world may witness how cryptocurrency mining networks, such as Bitcoin, shape a substantial part of world’s electricity consumption.

Given that natural gas and fossil fuels remain main sources of electricity, some environmentalists may express their concerns about how safe cryptocurrency mining is for the planet . According to scientific estimates, there is not much time left to prevent a severe climate change.

Anthony Pompliano, CEO of Standard American Mining, said that the company is now searching for unconventional cheap sources of energy, which will be used in development of distributed computing facilities.

Given that tires are now polluting the environment and take much space in landfills, extracting energy from these materials may be a good idea. Even though burning a carbon-based fuel from tires generates greenhouse gas emissions compared to renewable power sources like solar panels, burning tire-derived fuel yields much less CO2 emissions than coal.

Tire-derived fuels can replace coal and can be incinerated at cement plants, which will reduce their extremely high carbon emissions by 18-24 percent. To support this idea, 2006 EPA study revealed that there is a greater net benefit on greenhouse gas emissions when tires are burnt and recycled rather when they are landfilled.

Synthetic gas, a burnable tire-derived fuel, which can run a turbine and generate electricity, is a result of the tire pyrolysis process.

Before rallying with Standard American Mining to make a mining deal, PRTI’s used tire plant hadn’t been producing electricity onsite. Anthony Pompliano couldn’t reveal how much electricity is used to run his mining facility, though he shared that the power consumption was significantly larger than amateur mines use. Additionally, his company has been already yielding solid returns.

There are still some concerns whether cryptocurrency is providing sufficient value to defend its considerable environmental footprint. According to Pompliano, cryptocurrency provides the biggest profit among all computing facilities, however new profitable applications are expected to emerge in the future. The company’s goal is to develop a distributed computing network at lower prices compared to the ones set by the big corporations.

It is noteworthy that Bitcoin mining chips have a limited range of applications, but the graphics processing units utilized by this outfit have wider scope of application, for instance in drug research studying protein folding.

More and more people throughout the globe engage in crypto mining which is technically displacing other activity, like protein folding, that one could argue is a more socially valuable use of electricity. Is cryptocurrency mining sustainable right now? Probably not. But if blockchains can rapidly, radically scale up their efficiency, the calculation could change.