They’re Drilling For Liquid Gold in Texas, But This Time It Isn’t Oil — It’s Lithium!

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Texas is well known for oil due to its large deposits of this resource, which were first discovered in the early 1900s. Since then, the state has been an integral part of the US oil industry and has become one of the world’s largest producers of crude oil, making it a major player in the global energy sector. Its vast reserves of crude oil have contributed significantly to its lucrative economy.

So, if you see a tower and a drilling rig going up in Texas, it’s easy to assume that it must have something to do with oil and gas production. But, some drilling rigs in east Texas are doing something that would probably surprise people: help provide what clean technologies like electric cars and home energy storage need.

Standard Lithium recently heralded the news that, as part of its wide-scale resource enlargement activity in the East Texas Smackover region, it has tested, to the finest point it can ascertain, North America’s highest certified lithium grade brine at 634 mg/L lithium. From what Standard Lithium has encountered, the grade of lithium in brine used for Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) has a significant impact on both capital outlays and running costs related to the extraction procedure; generally speaking, a higher grade usually results in reduced overall costs.

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“We’re excited to discover this outstanding resource and to add it to our expanding portfolio of select projects in the Smackover Formation. We have built a large and technically diverse team of Smackover specialists who have been working for almost three years to understand the most prospective areas to secure the highest quality brine resources in East Texas,” said Dr. Andy Robinson, President and COO of Standard Lithium.

“The technical group has been supplemented by a strong team of mineral and land professionals who have been securing the extensive brine rights in these key project areas. Based on this work, the Company acquired the rights to one existing well and to drill a new deep well. We are delighted that sampling from the new well has led us to find lithium brine with, to the best of the Company’s knowledge, the highest grade in North America.”

In the past three years, the Standard Lithium crew have been cultivating a comprehensive comprehension of the Smackover Formation in Texas, via assessment of existing petro-physical logs, 2D seismic information, and extant core sample examination (saved from recent drilling activity). This knowledge has been supplemented by taking specimens and lab testing of produced water from present oil and gas production wells from the Smackover Formation in East Texas.

Thanks to this data collection and interpretative effort, the Company zeroed in on certain highly potential lithium brine venture regions in the Smackover Formation in East Texas, and launched an extensive brine leasing program for these key project areas.

What came next was really cool: the company was able to repurpose an old oil well to extract the lithium they found. By drilling another exploration borehole, they were able to find that lithium brine and pull a sample, further reducing the environmental cost of finding it.

“These very high-quality lithium brine resources, located in the heart of the Gulf Coast region, are close to, and highly complementary to, Standard Lithium’s existing lithium projects and have the potential to play a key role in future lithium production as part of the Company’s development and commercialization program,” said Robinson. “We look forward to working with the local communities and building our presence in East Texas, and we will be releasing further technical reports defining the project areas in the near future.”

Wait, So You’re Telling Me They Found Lithium In The Ground That Can Be Pumped Out?

When I first read this, I was a little surprised, mostly because I don’t know that much about lithium brine. Lithium brine is a concentrated solution of water and the mineral lithium, found in underground deposits. It is most commonly extracted by either pumping the brine to the surface or using direct extraction methods that extract the resource without bringing it to the surface. Lithium brine is a key source of lithium used in batteries, glass, ceramics, and other industries.

In some cases, lithium brine pools can be seen on the surface near the wells (something I didn’t know). These are created when water evaporates from a pool leaving behind a concentrated solution of lithium. This process is called solar evaporation and it concentrates the lithium to make extraction more efficient. The pools can become quite deep as water evaporates over time and leaves behind increasing concentrations of lithium.

But, when a company can start with brine that has higher concentrations of the stuff, it’s easier to purify it further. Less evaporation or other methods can be used to finish the process quicker and at a lower cost.

Lithium acts as an anode, or the negative component of a battery. When a battery is connected to an electrical circuit and current flows through it, lithium ions flow across the electrolyte between the anode and the cathode, creating electric charge in the process. This action provides a power source that can be used to power devices such as smartphones or tablets, and of course, electric vehicles. So, the sooner the material can be ready and the lower the costs, the better the availability of battery cells will be.

Standard Lithium Doesn’t Use Evaporation Pools

But, the benefits of Standard Lithium’s find don’t stop at the finding of such good brine.

The Company’s Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) Demonstration Plant is a first-of-its-kind industrial-scale project located at the LANXESS Property. This process offers several unique benefits: it eliminates the use of evaporation ponds and reduces processing time from months to hours, while also increasing the recovery of lithium. This process is scalable and environmentally friendly, making it an ideal choice for producing lithium in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

I tried to find more details on the process, but the company’s website only had information on a business deal for investors. We’ll reach out to the company to see if we can get more information about this process.

Featured image provided by Standard Lithium.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1985 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba