Lithium has traditionally been produced from hard rock mines in Australia and salty water in South America, but the bullish demand outlook has spurred various attempts to extract it from unconventional resources such as oil field and geothermal brines. Exxon is looking at how to utilize its expertise in fracking of oil and gas from shale rock, which involves the use of large volumes of water.
“One of the advantages of lithium from subsurface brines is it’s a lot less energy-intensive and emissions-intensive than, say, the hard rock mining that is common today,” Matt Crocker, senior vice president for Exxon’s low carbon solutions business, said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s actually got some pretty good ESG benefits associated with it.”
Exxon has been in talks with automakers including Tesla Inc. about supplying them with lithium, people familiar with the matter said in July. The company has also purchased drilling rights in parts of Arkansas with a view to producing lithium, the Wall Street Journal reported in May.
(By Mitchell Ferman)