Exxon starts drilling for lithium

Oil giant ExxonMobil is planning to become a leading lithium supplier by 2030 from its assets in southern Arkansas

ExxonMobil has announced its plan to produce lithium for the domestic US electric vehicle (EV) battery market. Work has begun for the company’s first phase of North America lithium production in Arkansas, an area known to hold significant lithium deposits. The product offer will be branded as Mobil Lithium, building on the rich history of deep technical partnership between Mobil and the automotive industry. “Lithium is essential to the energy transition, and ExxonMobil has a leading role to play in paving the way for electrification,” said Dan Ammann, president of ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions. “This landmark project applies decades of ExxonMobil expertise to unlock vast supplies of North American lithium with far fewer environmental impacts than traditional mining operations.”

In early 2023, ExxonMobil acquired the rights to 120,000 gross acres of the Smackover formation in southern Arkansas – considered one of the most prolific lithium resources of its type in North America.

“South Arkansas is our state’s all-around energy capital, producing oil, natural gas, and now thanks to investments like ExxonMobil’s and their combination of skills and scale, lithium,” said Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “My administration supports an all-of-the-above energy strategy that guarantees good, high-paying jobs for Arkansans – and we’ll continue to cut taxes and slash red tape to make that happen.”

South-west Arkansas has a history as an oil and natural gas producer, and the region’s geology is well understood. ExxonMobil is working with local and state officials to enable the successful scale-up of Arkansas’ emerging lithium industry.

Why does Exxon want to produce lithium?

After using conventional oil and gas drilling methods to access lithium-rich brine reservoirs about 10,000 feet underground, ExxonMobil will utilise direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology to separate lithium from the salt water. The lithium will then be converted on-site to battery-grade material. The remaining brine will be re-injected into the underground reservoirs. The DLE process produces fewer carbon emissions than hard rock mining and requires significantly less land.

“This project is a win-win-win,” Ammann added. “It’s a perfect example of how ExxonMobil can enhance North American energy security, expand supplies of a critical industrial material, and enable the continued reduction of emissions associated with transportation, which is essential to meeting society’s net-zero goals.”

Lithium is essential to the production of lithium-ion batteries, which are used in electric vehicles, consumer electronics, energy storage systems and other clean energy technologies. Demand for lithium is expected to quadruple by 2030, and virtually all lithium today is produced outside of North America.

Growing lithium production and low carbon solutions

The company is targeting its first lithium production for 2027 and is evaluating growth opportunities globally. First production is scheduled currently for 2007By 2030, ExxonMobil aims to be producing enough lithium to supply the manufacturing needs of well over a million EVs per year. Discussions with potential customers, including EV and battery manufacturers, 

 

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