If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em? Global oil and gas giant ExxonMobil plans to start drilling for lithium, the primary material in electric vehicle batteries, in Arkansas with production expected to begin in 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. Ammann joined ExxonMobil in mid-2022 following a 10-year career at General Motors that included a 5-year stint as the automaker’s president and three years as CEO of Cruise, GM’s troubled autonomous vehicle division.
Even with EV demand growth slowing in the third quarter, automakers are rushing dozens of new EVs to market, driving up demand for batteries and battery chemicals. Exxon officials said they expand demand to quadruple for the light metal by 2030.
ExxonMobil plans to drill for the metal, not mine it. Earlier this year, it bought mineral rights to the Smackover formation in southern Arkansas where geologists believe underwater saltwater deposits contain tons of lithium. ExxonMobil plans to pump the water out of the ground, filter out the lithium and send the saltwater back into underground reservoirs.
- The Oil & Gas Journal, a publication owned by IndustryWeek parent company Endeavor Business Media, has an extensive story describing the Smackover formation’s potential for ExxonMobil.
- In addition, IndustryWeek has been documenting that massive investments spelled out by automakers for battery plants in the coming years. The latest investment from Denver, Colorado-based Forge Nano Inc., calls for a $165 million batterly plant in Morrisville, North Carolina.
- Companies have slowed or walked back some of those investment plans as EV sales growth slowed in the fourth quarter, falling to about 6% from the second quarter, the first single-digit rise in EV sales in the past few years. Still, EV sales should close the year up more than 50% from 2022.
- And finally, our partners at Chemical Processing Magazine (another Endeavor partner), have this story describing the direct-lithium-extraction (DLE) process that ExxonMobil plans to use to get lithium out of saltwater.