Stronghold Digital wants to burn tires for fuel, environmental groups strike back

Stronghold Digital Mining is a Pennsylvania-based miner that repurposes waste coal for bitcoin mining

article-image

Midjourney

share

In a move that’s sparked outrage from environmental groups, Stronghold Digital Mining is looking to continue burning tires to fuel its bitcoin mining data center in Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania. 

StateImpact Pennsylvania, a reporting project of NPR member stations, reported on Stronghold Digital’s plans last Friday, which led to the Clean Air Council issuing a public rebuke on X, formerly Twitter.

“We are calling on state regulators and [the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection] with [Earthjustice] and [PennFuture] to deny a permitting request from Stronghold Digital Mining to burn tires as fuel for its bitcoin mining operations,” the non-profit wrote on Monday. 

Stronghold Digital told Blockworks that Pennsylvania-based environmental groups like PennFuture and Earthjustice “paint a really inaccurate picture.”

The Pennsylvania-based miner added that it already had a temporary permit from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to use tire-derived fuel, in other words, energy that is produced by burning tire scraps. 

“The current application process with DEP is to obtain a permanent permit…to continue to burn the [tire-derived fuel] in the same manner and [in] limited quantity, given [that] several years of testing have proven no adverse effects,” a company spokesperson told Blockworks in an email. 

Blockworks reached out to the DEP, PennFuture and Earthjustice for comment, but didn’t receive any responses before publication. 

But how bad would burning tires for fuel be? To answer that question, let’s take a closer look at what happens when tires are melted down. 

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in uncontrolled tire fires, tires will break down into hazardous materials including “gases, heavy metals and oil.”

That’s not the end of it though, because when burned, tires also produce emissions that contain “polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), benzene, styrene, phenols and butadiene.” Earthjustice also pointed this out in an Aug. 21 press release.

Many of these chemicals have the propensity to cause cancer in humans. Benzene, in particular, has been definitively classified as a carcinogen.

Stronghold Digital told Blockworks that random tire fires do not reflect its operations. 

At the Nesquehoning location, dubbed the Panther Creek site, the company uses two circulating fluidized bed combustors (CFBs) — a type of boiler — to burn waste coal, a byproduct of coal mining, and tire scraps. 

According to Science.gov, CFBs have been known to completely vaporize ventilation air methane from the act of burning coal.

Stronghold Digital collects waste coal from polluted areas in the state with the help of the DEP, a spokesperson told Blockworks. That waste coal is then converted into energy that, in part, is used to mine bitcoin. Some of it is also transferred back to the grid.

Stronghold Digital wants to continue limited use of tire-derived fuel, which it says accounts for less than 7% of the burned material at its 80 megawatt power plant in Nesquehoning. 

Additionally, the EPA does in fact support tire-derived fuel as an alternative to fossil fuels. That’s because tires often end up in landfills, and if they catch fire, that could lead to even more disastrous consequences than if a third party had burned them in a controlled manner.

“Disposal of scrap tires in tire piles is not an acceptable management practice because of the risks posed by tire fires,” the EPA wrote in a 2005 memo.

In a 2016 article, the EPA added that “it is better to recover the energy from a tire rather than landfill it.”

And in the DEP’s copy of a general permit for the disposal of tires, it lays out exactly how tires ought to be used for energy production.

“The permitted beneficial use of whole waste tires, tire chips, baled tires, tire shreds, and crumb rubber is limited to use in recapping, as fuel in boilers or other combustion units,” the permit stated.

Updated Aug. 30, 2023 at 3:24 pm ET: Additional context provided by Stronghold Digital regarding operations at its Panther Creek site


Don’t miss the next big story – join our free daily newsletter.

Tags

Upcoming Events

Hilton Metropole | 225 Edgware Rd, London

Mon - Wed, March 18 - 20, 2024

Crypto’s premier institutional conference returns to London in March 2024. The DAS: London Experience: Attend expert-led panel discussions and fireside chats Hear the latest developments regarding the crypto and digital asset regulatory environment directly from policymakers and experts.

Salt Lake City, UT

WED - FRI, OCTOBER 9 - 11, 2024

Pack your bags, anon — we’re heading west! Join us in the beautiful Salt Lake City for the third installment of Permissionless. Come for the alpha, stay for the fresh air. Permissionless III promises unforgettable panels, killer networking opportunities, and mountains […]

recent research

Research report - cover graphics (1).jpg

Research

In this report, we dive into crypto private market data to gather insights on where the future of the industry is headed. Despite a notable downturn in private raises, capital continues to infuse promising projects that aim to transform payments, banking, consumer experiences, community, and more, with 2023 being the fourth-largest year for crypto venture capital.

article-image

The results mark “a major positive inflection point,” one analyst says, as the exchange carries net income momentum into a crypto rally

article-image

While the slate of 10 US spot bitcoin funds have tallied $4.6 billion of net inflows thus far, half of the field is lagging the leaders

article-image

Trading volumes totalled $154 billion in Q4, including $125 billion in institutional volume

article-image

DeFi on Bitcoin is all the rage right now and Stacks is positioned to benefit

article-image

The Boston Globe reports that lawyer John Deaton is weighing a possible bid

article-image

Ethereum’s Dencun upgrade will enable Uniswap v4 to optimize smart contracts for complex functionality