June 22nd, 2024

Hut 8 completes 10-acre facility

By Collin Gallant on July 17, 2018.

Jeffrey Mason, a member of the Hut 8 board, feels the heat coming off a bank of processors on one of dozens of units now operating at the cmpanies 10-acre facility in north Medicine Hat on Wednesday, July 10, 2018.


Hut 8 Cryptocurrency says it has now completed its Medicine Hat facility — a sprawling 10-acre site on the wind-beaten prairie where super computers the size of train cars seek out and verify online financial transactions.

The company stated Monday it has installed the last of 40 planned “block box units” two months ahead of schedule at the site, located between the Medicine Hat speedway and the city’s new Unit 16 power plant.

Despite its placement in plain view — the new access road is a secondary speedway entrance — Jeffrey Mason, a director with the company who oversaw the four-month, $110-million construction project, admits the industry sounds a bit like science fiction.

“Amazon and Google have servers (like this) but you’ll never see them,” Mason told the News on a recent tour of the facility off Box Springs Road.

“This,” he adds, sweeping his hand across scrubland from north of Redcliff to the Windriver wind farm turbines, “it’s a nice little spot.”

Mason’s career history is in hard rock mining — supervising gold, copper, metal projects around the world — and more recently in e-commerce.

The company essentially does accounting for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which people trade and which are logged with a unique coding system, known as Blockchain, that users say is secure to prevent fraud and double dealing.

The firm announced in March that it, along with partner, European chipmaker BitFury, would more than double operations in Alberta.

Hut 8 now has about 120 employees in the province, including a Drumheller site and 50 in Medicine Hat, almost all of which are local hires, said Mason.

This summer they assembled the chip boards at a warehouse location at Redcliff, then installed them into box after box that sit in sequence on site. Alleys between act as hot and cold lanes, and whole walls made out of softball-sized fans vent hot air that’s drawn through the cooling fins of units, stacked nine high and twenty wide.

The louvered doors opposite obscure a massive barrier, much like a typical furnace filter, that draws in air, but keeps prairie dust out.

The entire site is controlled and monitored from a building on site, and the power — enough to power 7,000 homes at any give time — comes in a single cable from the neighbouring site and substation.

The power meter is the size of a porta-potty.

An initial 16 boxes went into operation in June, with another 24 slated to be delivered in September, though those are now in service according to the company.

The company announced in March it planned to build a server operation here thanks to a major power supply contract with he City of Medicine Hat, and on land leased by the city to the publicly listed company.

The 42-megawatt power supply agreement has led to several new records of the municipal power plant this spring.

The city reported production of 230 megawatts to regulators at 1 p.m. on Monday — a record by 10 megawatts and about 90 per cent of its maximum total output.

“As a result of our employees’ hardwork, our partners at Bitfury, and the co-operation City of Medicine Hat, construction is complete,” stated Hut 8 president Andrew Kiguel, in a press release. “We believe we are the largest cryptocurrency miner in Canada.”

The $110-million project is a joint venture with BitFury, a European chipmaker that produces purpose-designed chips.

Mason said access to that equipment, the size of the operation, and an ability to retrofit the local facility, mean Hut 8 will be able to be a low-cost operator, and top performer in the sector.

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