ExxonMobil in talks with potential lithium customers
After US oil company ExxonMobil announced its entry into lithium mining in May, the first names of possible customers are now circulating. According to an agency report, these include several carmakers as well as cell manufacturers and lithium producers.
As Bloomberg was told by insiders, ExxonMobil is negotiating with Tesla, Ford, Volkswagen and other carmakers about the supply of lithium, although the talks are still at an early stage. ExxonMobil is also said to have already negotiated with battery manufacturers SK On and Samsung SDI, as well as with lithium producer Albemarle.
Bloomberg rates the talks as “the latest sign of Exxon’s growing interest in the lithium business.” The information is not yet confirmed since Exxon, VW and SK On declined to comment when asked by Bloomberg, and Tesla, Ford and Samsung SDI did not respond to requests for comment.
At the end of May, the Wall Street Journal reported that US mineral oil company ExxonMobil had acquired the drilling rights for an area of around 48.5 hectares in southern Arkansas, where lithium-bearing brine can be mined, for 100 million dollars (around 93 million euros at the time). Insiders said ExxonMobil would consider expanding its lithium mining operations if the Arkansas region proved profitable.
One of the insiders indicated that Exxon has already conducted initial test drilling on a four-acre area in Arkansas. However, no decision has been made as to whether Exxon will mine the lithium there itself or bring in a partner. This is where Albemarle could come into play. The company itself was somewhat evasive but did not deny the assertions, saying in a statement that: “Given Albemarle’s leadership role in the market, people routinely want to speak with us — especially when looking at potential resources.”
Exxon has previously mentioned the “natural synergy” between lithium production from brine and oil and gas mining. CEO Darren Woods said during a conference call with analysts, according to Bloomberg, that processing “brine and extracting the lithium is very consistent with a lot of the things that we do in our refineries and chemical plants and, in fact, in some of our upstream operations.”