ExxonMobil announces plans for lithium production in central US

US oil giant ExxonMobil announced Monday it plans to produce lithium, a key component in rechargeable batteries, in the southern state of Arkansas.

Its lithium production would begin in 2027, according to a press release, which said the state’s southwest corner was “known to hold significant lithium deposits.”

Lithium is an essential component of rechargeable batteries used in everything from mobile phones and laptops to electric vehicles (EVs) and solar panels.

“Lithium is essential to the energy transition, and ExxonMobil has a leading role to play in paving the way for electrification,” said Dan Ammann, president of ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions.

While lithium production marks a step towards investment in cleaner forms of energy, ExxonMobil remains a leading global producer in fossil fuels.

The company recently doubled down on its production of oil and natural gas, sealing a megadeal in October to acquire shale producer Pioneer Natural Resources for about $60 billion.

ExxonMobil says it will use conventional oil and gas drilling methods to access saltwater that is rich in lithium from reservoirs some 10,000 feet (3 kilometers) underground in Arkansas.

The lithium will be extracted from the saltwater and “converted onsite to battery-grade material,” before the remaining saltwater is “re-injected” back into the reservoirs, the company said.

ExxonMobil says that by 2030 it “aims to be producing enough lithium to supply the manufacturing needs of well over a million EVs per year.”

Unlike some other major players in the energy field, ExxonMobil has steered clear of wind and solar power, with CEO Darren Woods telling management consultancy McKinsey & Company in an interview published on the firm’s website in September that “we will stay anchored in what we know we’re good at.”

In July, ExxonMobil announced its acquisition of Denbury, a pipeline operator that moves carbon dioxide, for nearly $5 billion, in a bet on carbon capture and sequestration — emerging technologies which are sometimes characterized as a loophole for emitters. (AFP)

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