Inspenet, September 22, 2023.
Exxon Mobil Corp. is currently in the early stages of research into how to obtain lithium from wastewater generated during the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process, as part of its exploration for opportunities in the lithium market used in batteries.
Exxon analyzes new extraction methods
Although it is in an early stage of development when it comes to its lithium-related activities, large-scale production of this metal could represent a significant business, even for a company the size of Exxon. Lithium is an essential component in electric vehicle batteries and long-term projections indicate there could be future global supply shortages.
Lithium, which has historically been obtained from rock mines in Australia and saline water in South America, has led to increased efforts to extract it from unconventional sources due to optimistic demand prospects. These efforts include exploring its extraction from oil fields and geothermal groundwater. In this context, the company is evaluating how to apply its experience in hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and gas from shale formations, a process that involves the use of large quantities of water.
“One of the advantages of lithium from subsurface brines is that it consumes much less energy and produces fewer emissions than, for example, the hard rock mining that is common today,” Matt Crocker, vice president of Exxon’s low carbon solutions division. “It actually has some pretty good ESG benefits associated with it.”
In July, it was reported that Exxon has been in communication with vehicle manufacturers, including Tesla Inc., to explore the possibility of supplying them with lithium, according to sources close to the matter. The company has also obtained drilling rights in areas of Arkansas with the intention of carrying out lithium production, as the Wall Street Journal reported in May.