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DRW VC Portfolio Company Spotlight: Cully Cavness, Crusoe

05.10.22

“Our mission is to align the future of computing with the future of the climate.” Cully Cavness, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Office of Crusoe, explains how the company plans to eliminate the flaring of natural gas by converting wasted resources into energy for high performance computing, their plans for growth over the next year and their upcoming industry developments.

1. What problem is Crusoe solving and what makes you excited about it?

Crusoe is on a mission to eliminate the routine flaring of natural gas to reduce energy waste and the emission of uncombusted methane, which is a highly potent greenhouse gas (GHG). When pipeline infrastructure is not available to take natural gas to markets, oil companies have historically combusted that “stranded gas” in a process called flaring. In addition to being wasteful, natural gas flaring significantly contributes to climate change as a portion of the natural gas, largely composed of methane, escapes directly to the atmosphere. Methane has a global warming potential (GWP) factor that is 82.5 times larger than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

Beyond the climate impact of natural gas flaring, Crusoe views the gas flared by operators as a loss of economic value through waste of an energy resource. Flared methane is a potential energy source that we can harness for productive uses rather than letting it go to waste. We have developed Digital Flare Mitigation® (DFM) technology specifically to capture this otherwise wasted resource, convert it into energy, and use it to power high-performance computing in modular data centers. We deploy DFM systems directly to flaring sites throughout the oil fields of North America, and today, we have more than 80 systems deployed throughout North Dakota, Montana and Colorado with plans to expand into other states and international markets.

Our mission is to align the future of computing with the future of the climate. Looking ahead, as demand for high-performance computing continues to grow, we seek to create value from all sources of stranded energy, not just methane, to power computing infrastructure.

2. Can you tell us more about DFM and how that process will help eliminate methane emissions?

Crusoe’s DFM systems can achieve up to 99.89% elimination of methane emissions. In comparison, studies have shown that flaring achieves an average combustion efficiency of approximately 93% in real world conditions. In many cases, flare combustion efficiency can be significantly worsened due to environmental conditions such as high winds, or gas-related variables such as pressure and exit velocity. Because of methane’s potency, by reducing the amount of uncombusted methane by at least 7%, Digital Flare Mitigation® can reduce CO2-equivalent emissions by about 63% compared to flaring.

Crusoe’s solution is highly scalable and is quickly expanding into new domestic and international markets. We have experience working with operators of all sizes to deploy systems that range from 1MW to over 15MW. DFM solutions deployed in the field today utilize millions of cubic feet per day of otherwise flared gas, achieving the scale required to move the needle on modern oil and gas operations.

3. Can you explain what CrusoeCloud™ is and how it will impact your business, as well as the industry?

Having proven the viability of our DFM systems for cryptocurrency computing, CrusoeCloud™ is our next step into offering low-cost, carbon-reducing computing to cloud computing clients. CrusoeCloud™, which will be powered by our DFM systems and other sources of carbon-reducing energy, aims to offer the cleanest and lowest-cost GPU cloud computing solution in the world for energy-intensive HPC workloads. We want to make activities like graphical rendering, artificial intelligence research, machine learning, computational biology, therapeutic drug discovery and simulation (to name a few) more sustainable and affordable for researchers and innovators. The alpha product currently offers Nvidia a100 and a40 virtual machine instances at market leading prices. CrusoeCloud™ is scheduled to launch publicly later this year.

4. What industry developments do you think will most impact Crusoe’s business?

We note that investors, governments and corporate managers are increasingly more focused on ESG performance. We believe this broad trend aligns closely with Crusoe’s mission and business model. We also anticipate the demand for computing to continue to grow rapidly as HPC workloads become the engine of innovation across numerous key technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, cryptocurrencies, graphical rendering, and a wide variety of research and simulation opportunities. These macro trends are positive for Crusoe and enable us to serve climate-aligned computing resources to a growing market with supportive commercial, political and social tailwinds.

By utilizing renewable energy when supply is high and regular demand is low, we can also help improve the economics and grid stability of renewable energy projects with a goal of accelerating additional renewable energy development across the grid. Our DFM systems offer operators an effective, reliable, and cost-free alternative to routine flaring that helps reduce waste and methane emissions as well as improve ESG performance.

And finally, on the computing side, our use of wasted and carbon-reducing energy sources allows us to provide clients the cleanest and lowest-cost GPU cloud computing solution available, so they can continue to innovate and solve complex problems while minimizing environmental impact.

5. What has been the most surprising market development for you when thinking about Crusoe’s business?

The recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia has disrupted many aspects of the global economy, but nowhere is it more apparent than in the energy markets. Geopolitical conflict has raised the importance of energy independence and highlighted how much our world is still reliant on fossil fuels today to power our homes, businesses, industries, and economy. We can’t ignore fossil fuels and their production as we still need them, even as the world works to scale the development of and transition to alternative sources of energy.

We are seeing domestic drilling and production activity pick up quite a bit in response to the Ukrainian conflict, the tight energy market, and high oil prices. Midstream infrastructure, such as pipelines used to collect and transport natural gas, can often lag this upstream drilling activity. Technologies like Digital Flare Mitigation® enable energy companies to produce oil without flaring. As we continue to grow and think about our business, we are committed to our mission of reducing the environmental impacts of the energy and computing sectors in which we operate.

In parallel with the conflict in Ukraine, we also note the heightened focus on and prioritization of methane emissions during the recent COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. Eliminating methane emissions will continue to be a part of our ongoing goals, and we view the next several decades as a key opportunity to “extend the climate runway” through methane emission mitigation, thereby allowing more time for alternative energy sources to scale and prevent longer-term climate impacts.

6. Can you tell us what your goals are this year following your most recent round of financing?

Our Series C fundraising enables us to further reduce emissions and flaring by deploying more Digital Flare Mitigation® systems throughout the United States and international markets. The funding also allows us to incorporate other sources of climate-aligned energy, such as renewable energy, into our operations, and on the computing front, CrusoeCloud™ is expected to launch later this year. We are also planning to grow our talented and diverse team from over 150 employees to more than an estimated 250 by the end of 2022.


Learn more about Crusoe.