A lithium mine for EV batteries is coming to Arkansas, says Exxon

A lithium mine for EV batteries is coming to Arkansas, says Exxon

Enlarge / These are piles of lithium harvested in Bolivia; Exxon’s site in Arkansas will look almost entirely unlike this as it will use direct lithium extraction, not evaporation, to harvest the mineral.

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Earlier this year, new electric vehicle tax incentive rules went into effect. Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, an EV’s tax credit is now linked to the amount of domestic content in its battery pack, an amount that needs to increase year on year.

Automakers had an inkling that would happen, so we’ve seen a flurry of announcements for new battery plants in the United States that will make the cells and assemble the packs for future EVs, but we’ve heard slightly less about new local sources of lithium. But today, Exxon revealed it is about to extract the stuff from a rich deposit in Arkansas.

At one point, California’s Salton Sea looked like a promising source of lithium, but working with the corrosive brine has proven extremely challenging to industrial equipment.

Exxon will also be extracting lithium-rich brine from reservoirs about 10,000 feet (3,000 m) underground. Exxon says it will then use direct lithium extraction on the brine (as opposed to evaporating it in big ponds) before pumping the remaining salt water back underground again.

“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. “This landmark project applies decades of ExxonMobil expertise to unlock vast supplies of North American lithium with far fewer environmental impacts than traditional mining operations,” he said.

Assuming all goes to plan, Exxon wants to begin producing lithium by 2027, with an output sufficient to build a million EVs annually by 2030.

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