ExxonMobil disclosed Monday (Nov. 13) that its 120,000-acre stake in the Smackover Formation of south Arkansas will stand up a lithium drilling operation to support supplies for electric vehicle batteries as soon as 2027.
The dollar amount of the investment was not released.
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. Southwest Arkansas has a history as an oil and natural gas producer.
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, the company said.
“Lithium is essential to the energy transition, and ExxonMobil has a leading role to play in paving the way for electrification,” Dan Ammann, president of Exxon’s low carbon solutions business, said in a statement.
“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.
ExxonMobil aims to supply enough of the mineral to support the manufacture of one million electric vehicles annually by 2030, it said.
“We are grateful to ExxonMobil for their investment in Arkansas,” said Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Hugh McDonald. “We look forward to the continued growth of the South Arkansas economy as more companies benefit from our natural resources and our hard-working people.”