Energy transition

Electric Rush: ExxonMobil To Drill Enough Lithium Wells To Make 1 Million EVs a Year

First production from the US supermajor's Arkansas lithium-rich asset is expected by 2027.

Group of electric cars with pack of battery cells module on platform
Source: Getty Images

ExxonMobil officially outlined big plans for lithium production today, highlighting its aim to support the building of more than a million electric vehicles (EVs) annually.

The company said it expects to achieve first production of lithium by 2027 from a 120,000-acre swath of land it acquired earlier this year in southern Arkansas. The area was previously estimated to hold enough extractable lithium to build 50 million EVs.

By 2030, ExxonMobil said it will become a “major supplier” of lithium which is expected to see a quadrupling of demand by then.

The Houston-based supermajor plans to use conventional oil and gas drilling technology to access the vast deposits which it said are located at depths of about 10,000 ft. The lithium—or specifically lithium carbonate—will be extracted from the produced water, or brine, using a technology called direct lithium extraction. ExxonMobil said it will reinject the lithium-depleted brine into the subsurface, completing a cycle that it said has a lower-carbon intensity and physical footprint than traditional lithium mining methods.

ExxonMobil, by far the biggest company yet to take a stake in the Smackover, has been linked to a separate agreement with Tetra Technologies that would see the oil and gas company help develop another 6,100 acres in the Jurassic age formation in Arkansas.

The firm noted in its announcement that it is looking for other growth opportunities in lithium on a global basis.

The lithium potential of the Smackover gained renewed attention in October when Standard Lithium, this time drilling across the Arkansas border in Texas, announced the discovery of North America's highest lithium concentrations in a well targeting the formation’s western trend.

With a growing race to find lithium-rich brines in North America, experts, as recently shared with JPT, have begun to highlight some of the challenges facing this emerging field. Among other factors, limited exploration activity and scarce public data make it hard to predict the commercial potential of areas other than the Smackover.