ExxonMobil drilling first lithium well in Arkansas
Petroleum and chemical manufacturing company aims to be a leading supplier for electric vehicles by 2030.
Exxon Mobil Corp. has announced plans to become a leading producer of lithium, a key component of electric vehicle (EV) batteries. Work has begun for the company’s first phase of North America lithium production in southwest 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 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.
Highlights of the announcement include:
• Advanced production approach has potential to unlock vast supplies of lithium in North America.
• Domestic sourcing will contribute to energy security, support manufacturing and advancing U.S. climate policy objectives.
• First production targeted for 2027.
“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 Gov. 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.”
Southwest 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.
Growing lithium production and low carbon solutions
The company is targeting its first lithium production for 2027 and is evaluating growth opportunities globally. By 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, are ongoing.
Lithium production benefits
After using conventional oil and gas drilling methods to access lithium-rich saltwater from reservoirs about 10,000 feet (3.048 kilometers) underground, ExxonMobil will use direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology to separate lithium from the saltwater. The lithium will then be converted onsite to battery-grade material. The remaining saltwater will be reinjected 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 said. “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.”
The announcement comes a month after Exxon said it would spend $60 billion to buy Pioneer Natural Resources. That purchase is designed to transforms ExxonMobil’s upstream portfolio, more than doubling the company’s Permian footprint and creating an “industry-leading, high-quality, high-return undeveloped U.S. unconventional inventory position.” Together the companies will have an estimated 16 billion barrels of oil equivalent resource in the Permian.
“Pioneer is a clear leader in the Permian with a unique asset base and people with deep industry knowledge. The combined capabilities of our two companies will provide long-term value creation well in excess of what either company is capable of doing on a standalone basis,” said ExxonMobil chairman and chief executive officer Darren Woods.
Read more about the Pioneer announcement here.
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