4 hours ago
November 15, 2023 at 2:30 pm
Exxon Mobil plans to begin domestic production of lithium which could soon supply EVs that are “Made in America,” right down to the lithium used in their batteries. That would make them eligible for more money in federal EV tax credits, but the point of domestic production is mostly to lessen dependence on China and bolster the U.S. supply chain.
Exxon and other oil majors have been investing in the EV transition across the U.S. and Europe heavily, as Automotive News reports, because many countries are trying to reduce consumption of fossil fuels. Exxon doesn’t want to be left behind as EVs proliferate, so it’s investing in lithium mining and production both here in the U.S. and overseas, as the oil company states:
“In the long term, lithium really is a global opportunity,” said Dan Ammann, president of Exxon’s Low Carbon business unit. “We are starting here because there is an urgent need to ramp up domestic production of these critical materials.”
Exxon’s production site sits on 120,000 acres of the Smackover Formation in Arkansas. There are lithium deposits in the area full of briny water that will be pumped out of the ground and separated using direct lithium extraction. The company says that lithium well mining results in about 66 percent less carbon emissions and requires less land than hard-rock mining.
The extract will then be converted onsite into battery-grade material, meaning that there is apparently no need to refine the lithium overseas. That’s another advantage to the South Arkansas operation, although Exxon will be unable to scale production until 2030, when the company plans to be making enough lithium to supply over one million EVs, according to Auto News:
Exxon plans to supply lithium for well over 1 million EVs per year and become a leading supplier of the metal by 2030. Analysts at financial firm TD Cowen estimate its goal would require some $2 billion in capital expenditures to provide 50,000 tonnes, a volume that could generate $800 million in potential cash.
Analysts say that the money Exxon could invest into increasing the production capacity of the Arkansas site is more than the money it would yield from sales of its “battery-grade” material to U.S. automakers, but it seems Exxon is playing the long game. Lithium demand is expected to quadruple in the next three years, coinciding with the 2030 goal that Exxon is setting for scaled production.
Photo: Luke Sharrett (Getty Images)
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