ExxonMobil has been planning to enter the lithium business for months. To what extent was unclear, with few leaks indicating the company’s intentions. The US mineral oil company has now officially stated that it wants to produce enough lithium for the batteries of more than one million electric cars per year by 2030.
At the end of May, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US mineral oil company had acquired the drilling rights for around 48.5 hectares in southern Arkansas for 100 million dollars (around 93 million euros), where brine containing lithium can be extracted. The insiders quoted at the time said that ExxonMobil would consider expanding its lithium mining activities if the Arkansas region proved profitable.
In August this year, Bloomberg was told by insiders that ExxonMobil was negotiating with Tesla, Ford, Volkswagen and other carmakers about the supply of lithium, also saying that the talks are still at an early stage. ExxonMobil was also said to have already negotiated with battery manufacturers SK On and Samsung SDI, as well as with lithium producer Albemarle.
ExxonMobil has now officially announced that preparations have begun for the first phase of lithium production in southwest Arkansas. ExxonMobil plans to start production in 2027. The new product offering “builds on the long history of close technical partnership between Mobil and the automotive industry” and aims to “become a leading producer of lithium”, according to the company.
ExxonMobil acquired the rights to the land in southern Arkansas in early 2023. The company confirms the size of 48.5 hectares mentioned by the Wall Street Journal in the spring. The purchase price has not been disclosed. Southwest Arkansas has a long history in the oil and gas industry, with the oil and gas company claiming an advantage of already being familiar with the geology of the area. The company says it is working with local and state authorities “to facilitate the successful development of the emerging lithium industry in Arkansas”.
ExxonMobil plans to use conventional oil and gas drilling methods to tap the lithium-rich saltwater from deposits at a depth of around 3,000 meters, after which direct lithium extraction (DLE) will be used to filter the lithium from the saltwater. The raw material is to be processed on-site in order to convert it into a state suitable for batteries. Exxon has not mentioned a technology partner, which leaves the question of whether Exxon wants to extract the lithium itself or bring in a partner with experience in the field.
“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.”