Date: November 13, 2023. — Exxon Mobil is set to make a comeback in the electric vehicle (EV) battery market with its plan to produce lithium in Arkansas by 2026.
Exxon intends to generate at least 10,000 metric tons of lithium per year in Arkansas. This effort is in collaboration with its partner Tetra Technologies, a chemical business specializing in water treatment and recycling. The “Project Evergreen” project aims to filter lithium from brine resources. The focus of the study is the Smackover Formation, a geological stratum rich in lithium and bromine, stretching from Florida to Texas.
Exxon is venturing into the lithium market at a time when there is an expected upswing in demand for this lightweight metal. Automakers are increasingly adopting electric vehicles driven by the pursuit of reducing carbon emissions. They are also adhering to environmental standards. This is fueling the surge in demand. BloombergNEF projects that by 2030, global demand for lithium could potentially exceed 1.4 million metric tons annually. This would represent more than doubling its current levels.
Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a research organization, reported Exxon’s lithium production in Arkansas in 2020, which accounted for 15% of global output. Exxon’s lithium production, with a presumed 60 kWh battery capacity, could power around 100,000 electric vehicles each year. This demonstrates substantial energy potential.
Exxon, under pressure from activists and shareholders to reduce its carbon footprint, responds to the energy transition by investing in cleaner energy sources. The company is attempting to diversify its portfolio and make the most of its current resources and knowledge. This includes implementing a strategy around lithium. Darren Woods, the CEO of Exxon, stated during a call with investors on October 4 that the business saw “an opportunity to really leverage the things that we’re pretty good at.” He also mentioned that the lithium sector was “fairly promising.”
However, the organization is unlikely to disclose details about the specific DLE technology chosen. The company has a track record of keeping certain partner and supplier information confidential. Earlier this year, it was revealed that Exxon and Chevron engaged in discussions. They were in talks with International Battery Metals and EnergySource Minerals, two companies offering DLE technology. Unlike the traditional evaporation method, which is time-consuming and environmentally impactful. DLE is a newer and unproven technology that claims to extract lithium more efficiently from brine. However, DLE faces challenges such as significant energy and water requirements, waste stream management, and concerns about scalability and reliability.
Exxon is not the only oil company venturing into the lithium market. BP, Shell, and TotalEnergies are also competing for market share. These companies have invested in or formed partnerships with lithium producers or developers, including Albemarle, Ganfeng Lithium, and Eramet. This is in a bid to tap into the growing electric vehicle (EV) industry and secure access to battery metals.
Exxon Mobil’s foray into lithium production highlights the company’s proactive stance in staying ahead of worldwide energy trends. Anticipation surrounds the forthcoming impact of Exxon Mobil’s presence in the lithium market, with the targeted production date slated for 2026. This move is poised to influence not only the energy sector but also contribute to the broader shift toward a more sustainable future.