Equinor Takes Ownership Stake of US Lithium Brine Projects

The Norwegian oil company said it may spend more than $130 million to get in on the emerging lithium brine business in Texas and Arkansas.

Drilling for lithium brine in southwest Arkansas.
Source: Standard Lithium.

Equinor announced this week that it has finalized a deal with Standard Lithium to acquire a 45% interest in two lithium projects located in Texas and Arkansas. The projects targeting the lithium brine-rich Smackover formation that extends across both states could see Equinor investing more than $130 million.

Standard Lithium, headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, will maintain a 55% ownership and continue as the project operator. In addition to its new funding, Equinor will provide subsurface and project execution expertise to the partnership.

Last year, Standard Lithium reported discovering North America’s highest concentration of lithium brine at its east Texas project.

Under the terms of the partnership, Equinor will reimburse Standard Lithium $30 million for past capital expenditures.

Additionally, Equinor has pledged $33 million toward future expenses to advance these projects to a final investment decision on large-scale development. Should the projects move past this stage, Equinor may also make milestone payments totaling up to $70 million to Standard Lithium.

Morten Halleraker, a senior vice president for new business and investments at Equinor, said in a statement, "This investment is an option with limited upfront financial commitment. We can utilize core technologies from oil and gas in a complementary partnership to mature these projects toward a possible final investment decision."

Standard Lithium previously estimated that the proposed facilities in Texas would cost $365 million and could produce an average of 5,400 tonnes of battery-quality lithium annually.

Standard Lithium CEO, Robert Mintak, commented on the deal, “This partnership with Equinor is a major accomplishment for Standard Lithium. It has long been our belief that success in this sector hinges on strategic partnerships with companies who share our vision and bring complementary strengths.”

The new investment underscores a growing interest in direct lithium extraction (DLE), an emerging technology that offers an efficient method to extract high-purity lithium from reservoir brines that is suitable for battery production. The process, which Equinor has been investing in through other equity deals since 2018, involves several stages including pretreatment, extraction, concentration, purification, and crystallization.

Equinor’s entry into the Smackover play follows similar initiatives by ExxonMobil which has amassed a 120,000 acre position in southern Arkansas. ExxonMobil has said it intends to produce enough lithium from the Smackover by 2030 to build enough batteries for 1 million electric vehicles.