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.
“South Arkansas is our state’s all-around energy capital, producing oil, natural gas, and now thanks to investments like ExxonMobil’s and their combination of skills and scale, lithium,” said Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “My administration supports an all-of-the-above energy strategy that guarantees good, high-paying jobs for Arkansas – and we’ll continue to cut taxes and slash red tape to make that happen.”
Southwest Arkansas has a history as an oil and natural gas producer, and the region’s geology is well understood. ExxonMobil is working with local and state officials to enable the successful scale-up of Arkansas’ emerging lithium industry.
Lithium Production Benefits
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.
“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.
The company is targeting its first lithium production for 2027 and is evaluating growth opportunities globally. 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.