ExxonMobil has just announced that it aims to be a top lithium producer and supplier for the electric vehicle (EV) battery industry by 2030, and it is just now getting to work on its first lithium well. This first lithium production site is in southwest Arkansas, which is a lithium-rich region.
“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.”
Naturally, Exxon has launched a new brand for this arm of its business, Mobil Lithium. The pitch from the company is that it is “building on the rich history of deep technical partnership between Mobil and the automotive industry.” Funny enough, the company is also touting the environmental and energy security benefits of its domestic lithium production. Here are four key bullet points from Exxon:
- Advanced production approach has potential to unlock vast supplies of lithium in North America
- Domestic sourcing will contribute to energy security, support manufacturing and advance U.S. climate policy objectives — with significantly fewer environmental impacts
- First production targeted for 2027
- Project further demonstrates ExxonMobil’s leadership in energy transition
It seems the EV transition is apparent to everyone, even (or especially) ExxonMobil. I would have thought Exxon would have nudged its way into this market sooner, to be honest, but better late than never. Earlier this year, ExxonMobil made the move to acquire the rights to the 120,000 gross acres of the Smackover formation in southern Arkansas that it is now tapping into. The Smackover formation is “considered one of the most prolific lithium resources of its type in North America,” the company notes.
Many longtime critics of ExxonMobil would rather not see the company profit on the EV transition at all, considering that it worked for decades to obfuscate, confuse, and delay action. However, I think it’s also heartening to see this as a win — when you’ve got Exxon working to supply the EV industry, all the better!
How ExxonMobil (Mobil Lithium) Is Getting Lithium
As far as the processes ExxonMobil (or Mobil Lithium) is aiming to use for lithium production in Arkansas, here’s what the company has to share: “After using conventional oil and gas drilling methods to access lithium-rich saltwater from reservoirs about 10,000 feet underground, ExxonMobil will utilize 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 re-injected into the underground reservoirs. The DLE process produces fewer carbon emissions than hard rock mining and requires significantly less land.” It’s nothing breakthrough, but it’s a good process.
Initial production is expected in 2027. ExxonMobil is also looking elsewhere for similar opportunities. The company knows this is the future and it must move quickly. “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.”
The company adds that almost all of the world’s lithium production today occurs outside the US, and that lithium demand is expected to quadruple by 2030.
Naturally, the company and its PR crew know how to maximize the “altruistic” reasons for Exxon’s shift into this climate solution. “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.” He forgot one win — Exxon can make more money. I guess that one’s obvious. Everyone knows that’s the only real reason Exxon does anything.
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