Life Cycle Assessment of Bitcoin Mining

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Abstract

This study estimates the environmental impact of mining Bitcoin, the most well-known blockchain-based cryptocurrency, and contributes to the discussion on the technology’s supposedly large energy consumption and carbon footprint. The lack of a robust methodological framework and of accurate data on key factors determining Bitcoin’s impact have so far been the main obstacles in such an assessment. This study applied the well-established Life Cycle Assessment methodology to an in-depth analysis of drivers of past and future environmental impacts of the Bitcoin mining network. It was found that, in 2018, the Bitcoin network consumed 31.29 TWh with a carbon footprint of 17.29 MtCO2-eq, an estimate that is in the lower end of the range of results from previous studies. The main drivers of such impact were found to be the geographical distribution of miners and the efficiency of the mining equipment. In contrast to previous studies, it was found that the service life, production, and end-of-life of such equipment had only a minor contribution to the total impact, and that while the overall hashrate is expected to increase, the energy consumption and environmental footprint per TH mined is expected to decrease.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Volume53
Issue number23
Pages (from-to)13598-13606
Number of pages9
ISSN0013-936X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2019

Keywords

  • LCA
  • Life Cycle Assessment
  • Carbon footprint
  • environmental impact
  • Bitcoin
  • Blockchain

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  • Projects

    Sustainable Blockchain Technologies

    Pizzol, M. & Köhler, S.

    01/08/201831/07/2021

    Project: Research

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