The mystery of 2100 ETH gas transaction, mistake or something else?

Taylor Dawson?

This story started with the man called Taylor Dawson.


Taylor works as an open source and community developer at Amberdata.

This Palo Alto-based company has developed a SaaS platform for smart contract analytics.

Put it simply, Taylor’s company analyzes the health of blockchain infrastructures.

And it does it on a daily basis. That’s why the developer was the first one to see the anomaly when he looked at the company’s daily reports.  

On Feb.19, the average gas price on the Ethereum network shot up by 1757% and reached 266.39 Gwei.

Just to illustrate how unusual that was, let’s mention the same metrics on the other days.

The price got back to its average normal of 15.31 Gwei on Feb. 21 and got even lower, 14.08 Gwei, on Feb. 23.

What kind of transaction could increase the average fee on February, 19?

Being curious by nature, Taylor decided to dig deeper into the metrics of that day, February 19. And what the anomaly detector showed him was an average gas price of 70,024.51 Gwei in a five minute period.

Now, the developer was not on his own. 

The whole team gathered together to run a specific query. They wanted to get all past transactions where the gas price was over 10,00,000 Gwei.

And what do you think they learnt?

  • All of the transactions with the gas price over 10,00,000 Gwei were incurred on the same day – February, 19, 2019 
  • Every transaction was from the same address: 0x587ecf…57516e
  • Over the course of 4 hours, someone spent over half a million dollars in transaction fees, $583,976.40 to be exact.

The fee went to different mining pools where  Sparkpool got the biggest slice of the pie, 2100 ETH.

Sparkpool received $300K (2100 ETH) in reward for mining one block

It doesn’t happen often that a mining pool receives such a generous reward for discovering one block. Normally, this amount is 750 times less, 3 ETH (~$400).

The co-founder of IOST, Jimmy Zhong, couldn’t help but notice this weird accident.

The next day, however, Feb. 20, Sparkpool notified its pool of miners via a statement sent out on Wednesday that ETH currently worth around $300K would remain locked for the time being.

Here is the company’s statement:

“Sparkpool has recently mined a block with a 2100 ETH mining reward, which was an anomaly that triggered our internal emergency mechanism. We have temporarily frozen this fee and are now waiting for the sender to contact us for a solution. If the sender does not reach out in the next a few days, Sparkpool will then allocate the fees to miners who are entitled for the reward.”

“Ah, but my dear sir, the why must never be obvious,” Hercule Poirot

So, who and why sent this huge fee to the mining pool?

The subsequent analysis by blockchain analytics site Amberdata demonstrates that the “why” seems rather obvious and suggests “a bot gone haywire.”

Taylor Dawson and the team believe that “the developer must have confused gas price with the transaction value, walked away and then didn’t realise the mistake until it was too late. Very very bad luck.”

Later on, CTO of Amberdata Joanes Espanol added to the discussion:

“I don’t believe it to be an attempt at money laundering, because the same ‘error’ happened five times within a couple hours, and different mining pools were the lucky recipients of the transaction fees.”

Espanol also mentioned that this was yet another good example of why auditing and battle testing smart contract code was vital.


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