ExxonMobil goes for lithium mining

The US mineral oil company ExxonMobil is apparently getting involved in lithium mining. According to information from US media outlets, the oil giant has acquired drilling rights for an area in the US state of Arkansas where large lithium deposits are suspected.

According to the Wall Street Journal, ExxonMobil has invested 100 million US dollars (equivalent to 93 million euros) in acquiring drilling rights from the exploration company Galvanic Energy for an area of around 48.5 hectares in southern Arkansas.

ExxonMobil’s investment in lithium mining is very small compared to the company’s $56 billion profit last year. Still, it signals that the company is preparing for a future of declining profits from the oil business.

Citing insiders, the Wall Street Journal reports that ExxonMobil would consider expanding its lithium mining operations if the Arkansas region proves profitable. Oklahoma City-based Galvanic estimates that the area contains 4 million tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE), which it says is enough to build 50 million electric vehicles. Galvanic also reports that recently completed test wells showed an average LCE level of 325 mg/l, which it says is the highest concentration of any lithium brine reservoir in North America.

ExxonMobil is also said to already be involved in another lithium project through its subsidiary Imperial Oil Ltd. The Journal of Petroleum Technology reports that Imperial, together with metals company E3, will start up a lithium pilot plant at the Leduc oil and gas field in Alberta, Canada, later this year. Apparently, three test wells have been drilled so far as part of the partly government-funded project, which is said to have yielded a lithium concentration of 75 mg/L for the reservoir.

ExxonMobil has not made these activities public through its press office. In 2016, Greenpeace published documents showing how ExxonMobil was lobbying the British government and governments in the EU against the introduction of electric cars. In 2019, company CEO Darren Woods told an oil and gas industry meeting that he didn’t understand the point of electric vehicles. Three years later, however, his verdict was quite different: Woods told CNBC last year that he believes electric cars could make up the entire new car market by 2040.

wsj.com (paywall), qz.com, gizmodo.com


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