When last we featured Exxon’s flirtation with domestic lithium production, the oil giant had just acquired drilling rights on 120,000 acres in the brine-rich Smackover Formation in Ark. The $100 million deal with Okla. City-based Galvanic Energy drew a lot of comments on LinkedIn, most of which questioned the economic viability of commercially producing lithium to make vehicle batteries using current extraction technologies. Looks like Exxon has now upped the ante.
Reese Energy Consulting today is following the latest from Exxon, which will partner with chemical producer Tetra Technologies to develop 6,100 acres in the Smackover using DLE, or direct lithium extraction—a technology not yet proven on a large scale but expected to come online in 2025. The USGS estimates DLE could unlock 70% of global lithium reserves, extracting ~90% of lithium in brine water vs 50% using evaporation ponds. The process proposes to be environmentally cleaner and dramatically faster, as in hours or days compared to 12-18 months.
But here’s the first kicker. At the same time Exxon bought Galvanic’s assets, it also quietly acquired Ark.-based Saltwerx, which has brine leases on 100,000 acres right next door to Galvanic, along with an estimated 4 million tons of lithium carbonate equivalent and 8.5 million tons of bromine with average concentrations of 325 ppm and 4,000 ppm, respectively.
As for the second kicker? Tetra sources bromine for use in battery manufacturing.