Data Centers May Relocate to Use Marcellus Shale Gas

Large computer data centers (sometimes called server farms), with thousands of computers, use a lot of electricity. By some estimates data centers use up to 2.2% of all the electricity generated in the U.S.

Now there’s talk that data centers, which have often been constructed in southern states, may have their eye on building new centers in the Mid-Atlantic region. Why? Marcellus shale gas. They want to take advantage of low gas prices and by building next to gas fields in the Marcellus, they can do just that.

MDN unearthed this interesting story on AOL Energy:

Could data centers someday stand alongside drilling rigs in the Marcellus Shale gas fields? It is an increasing possibility, says an energy expert at an international buildings efficiency firm.

Data centers are sometimes built for the exclusive use of such giants as Google and Facebook, but most of them are intended for hosting companies, which process data for multiple tenants.

Packed with servers, data centers can consume as much electricity for air conditioning as they use for data processing.

A 2011 Analytics Press report, "Growth in Data Center Electricity Use: 2005 to 2010," estimates that data centers consumed 1.7%-to-2.2% of all U.S. electricity generated in 2010.

Data center companies are evaluating various approaches to easing their energy costs. And it’s rumored that some of them are considering co-locating their facilities on Marcellus Shale gas fields, and buying the gas at potentially wholesale prices.

Jean-Simon Venne, vice president of Energy Efficiency at Montreal-headquartered SMi-Enerpro, says, "I have heard that there have been discussions [on the idea]. On the energy side, there is interest because companies extracting gas could extract a lot more, but the distribution network cannot take any more, and prices are declining.

"For data centers," Venne continued, "it’s a perfect equation. If they’re located over the fields, they could buy the gas for less than they would pay a distributor, and the land is reasonably priced. You burn the gas in fuel cells to create a lot of electricity, and you’re off the grid, so you’re shielded from any grid problems."

"Two thirds of the gas you burn," added Venne, "is released as heat, and you’d shoot [the heat] into combustion chillers, so you do your cooling without adding more electricity to the equation. And, when you do that, you have probably one of the most efficient systems you can think of for a data center."*

Read the rest of this fascinating story by clicking the link below.

*AOL Energy (Jun 14, 2012) – The Fracked Internet: Data Centers Could Emerge on Gas Fields