As the Smackover (SMK) Lithium (Li) play picks up steam we need to acknowledge that from regulatory and legal standpoints, there will be significant differences between the play in South Arkansas and in East Texas.  Very soon we expect to know more about royalty provisions and regulatory guidelines.  From past experience with dissimilarities between Texas and Louisiana mineral laws and regulatory statutes governing the Haynesville Shale, we hope to limit confusion and make it easier to access the information that will be pertinent to land and mineral owners.

In order to help members and quests to the website and to avoid confusion, we will start two new discussions, one for Texas and one for Arkansas.  There is an abundance of information in the original SMK Lithium discussion threads and members may want to click on them and then save them to their computer bookmarks/favorites to be able to access them in the future as they will eventually rotate off the main page.  After 24 hours, comments in those discussions will be closed but the replies will remain available in the website archive.   Archived discussions are available by using the search box in the upper right corner of all website pages.

GoHaynesvilleShale.com was one of the first resources for mineral owners to learn basics, share information and generally provide a place where mineral owners could become more informed managers of their mineral assets in the age of the Internet.  The website is pleased to continue to provide those services to those who will benefit from the SMK Lithium Play.  Please keep in mind two things.  You are a key part of the on the ground intelligence network by letting your friends and neighbors know about GoHaynesvilleShale.com and encouraging them to participate in site discussions.  And since GoHaynesvilleShale.com is free for all to use, please consider a donation to help keep the website online.

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Exxon Mobil Expands Operations into Lithium Production for EV Batteries

27-Feb-2024 5:59 PM  Journalist: Sasha Fernandes  chemanalyst.com

Exxon Mobil Corp is embarking on a significant venture into the electric vehicle (EV) battery market with its announcement of plans to commence the production of lithium compounds essential for EV batteries. Demonstrating adaptability and foresight, the company is set to offer either lithium carbonate or hydroxide, catering to the specific requirements of battery manufacturers. Mobil Lithium, ExxonMobil’s newly established brand, is strategically positioned to address the growing demand for reliable and efficient EVs, ensuring that its lithium production can contribute to powering a substantial number of vehicles.

In a strategic move that underscores its ability to respond to evolving market demands, Exxon Mobil Corp is diversifying its operations into the cultivation of lithium, a critical component for powering electric vehicles. The oil and gas conglomerate's decision reflects its commitment to adaptability and staying at the forefront of emerging market trends. ExxonMobil is positioning itself as a supplier of both battery-grade lithium carbonate and hydroxide, taking into consideration the diverse needs of battery manufacturers and the varying preferences between two dominant battery types: LFP (lithium iron phosphate) and NCM (nickel cobalt manganese).

Patrick Horwath, who oversees ExxonMobil’s lithium business trajectory, emphasized the customer-driven approach in the company's production strategy. Recognizing the split preferences among customers for either the stability offered by LFP batteries or the extended range provided by NCM batteries, ExxonMobil is tailoring its development plans for its Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) project located in the resource-rich Smackover Formation in southern Arkansas.

ExxonMobil is targeting the initiation of its EV battery production line by 2027 under the branding of Mobil Lithium. While specific production quantities have not been disclosed, the project is positioned to potentially power a fleet of 1 million electric vehicles. The company maintains a cautious optimism, acknowledging the inherent volatility of lithium prices but relying on its robust financial foundation to weather market fluctuations and capitalize on cyclical trends.

In contrast to pursuing vertical integration into the battery manufacturing sector, ExxonMobil, leveraging its established industrial prowess and partnerships, plans to contribute to the North American battery supply chain, stimulated by initiatives like the Inflation Reduction Act.

The establishment of Mobil Lithium signifies a new era for ExxonMobil, seamlessly blending its longstanding presence in the energy sector with the innovative realm of EV technology. This strategic undertaking underscores the company's commitment to sustainable mobility solutions, aligning with the transformative shifts in energy consumption and the automotive industry's progression towards electrification. ExxonMobil's foray into lithium production positions it as a key player in supporting the electric vehicle revolution, reflecting its dedication to staying ahead in the dynamic landscape of the evolving energy and automotive sectors.

TETRA TECHNOLOGIES, INC. ANNOUNCES FOURTH QUARTER AND TOTAL YEAR 2023 RESULTS

Excerpt, Link to full article:  https://www.streetinsider.com/PRNewswire/TETRA+TECHNOLOGIES%2C+INC.... of Form

 

StreetInsider.com Top Tickers, 2/27/2024

February 27, 2024 5:00 PM EST

 

  • Fourth quarter revenue of $153.1 million increased 4% year-over-year.
  • Fourth quarter net loss before discontinued operations was $4.2 million and net loss per share was $0.03. Adjusted net income from continuing operations was $3.8 million, an improvement of 51% year-over-year. Adjusted net income per share was $0.03. Total year 2023 income from continuing operations was $25.5 million, a 235% increase versus 2022.
  • Fourth quarter Adjusted EBITDA of $24.1 million increased 19% year-over-year. Total year Adjusted EBITDA was $106.8 million, a 37% increase versus 2022.
  • Fourth quarter net cash provided by operating activities was $19 million while adjusted free cash flow was $20 million. Total year 2023 net cash provided by operating activities was $70 million, an improvement of $51 million year-over-year. Adjusted free cash flow for 2023 was $41 million, an improvement of $62 million year-over-year.

THE WOODLANDS, Texas, Feb. 27, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- TETRA Technologies, Inc. ("TETRA" or the "Company") (NYSE:TTI) today announced fourth quarter and total year 2023 results.

Brady Murphy, TETRA's President and Chief Executive Officer, stated, "2023 was a historical year for TETRA with numerous financial records and strategic milestones achieved that will have a significant impact for the Company for years to come. Financial highlights for the year include 2.4 times growth in income from continuing operations, 37% growth in Adjusted EBITDA, 710 basis points improvement in return on net capital employed to 20.5%1, 2.7 times improvement in cash flow from operations and a conversion rate of nearly 40% of Adjusted EBITDA to adjusted free cash flow. Excluding the impact of working capital, our total year 2023 adjusted free cash flow was the highest since 2015 demonstrating progress on generating cash. As of December 2023, our net leverage ratio was 1.13X and liquidity was $126 million.

Recent strategic milestones achieved include: the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission ("AOGC") unanimously approving the 6,138-acre Evergreen Brine Unit, a combination of TETRA and Saltwerx (a wholly owned subsidiary of ExxonMobil) brine leases for the purpose of future bromine and lithium production, and completing a lithium and bromine resource report for the Evergreen Brine Unit. Due to the richness of the lithium concentration and the favorable Smackover reservoir properties, the resource report estimated 22 tons per acre of total lithium resources for the Evergreen Brine Unit, which is believed to be the highest to date of any lithium brine resource in the U.S. for which a SK-1300, NI-43-101 or JORC-compliant technical report summary has been published. We also completed the engineering design for our first commercial produced water beneficial re-use project with a planned deployment later this year. And in January 2024, we further strengthened our balance sheet by refinancing, extending, and expanding our term loan, at a more attractive interest rate than our prior term loan. We enter 2024 with a strong and growing base business, a solid balance sheet, over $200 million of liquidity (following the term loan refinancing and inclusive of a $75 million delayed draw feature to fund our bromine project), with a constructive outlook for our products and services. We anticipate further growth in 2024 and expect to continue to generate strong free cash flow from our base business to fund investments in our Arkansas projects. The combination of these plus advances with our produced water beneficial re-use solution, our Arkansas resource position and strategic partnerships provides us the opportunity to continue to drive long-term shareholder value."

Why Smackover’s history of oil production could translate to cheap lithium brine for Pantera Minerals

stockhead.com

Link to full article with graphics/maps:  https://stockhead.com.au/resources/why-smackovers-history-of-oil-pr...

Lithium might be experiencing a downturn at the moment but there’s little doubt that demand for the battery metal will return stronger than ever as more lithium-ion batteries are required to electrify transport.

It also helps that countries such as the US are keen to secure domestic supplies of lithium in the interests of ESG and supply security.

This is particularly true given the wave of planned battery plants that will increase North American annual battery manufacturing capacity from 55 gigawatt hours (GWh) in 2021 to nearly 1,000GWh before 2030.

Reaching this level of battery manufacturing capacity will be needed to meet the demands of automotive manufacturers with GM, Ford and Stellantis having committed >US$50bn collectively to electrify their offerings.

Any North American-focused lithium company capable of holding the course despite the current challenges and timing their entry into production just as this surge in demand is realised will be perfectly positioned to enjoy the rewards.

But doing so will require having the financial resources to continue operations and/or ensuring maximised impact from operations for the lowest possible cost.

Pantera building commanding position in the Smackover Brine play

Pantera Minerals (ASX:PFE) is amongst the ASX companies seeking to progress lithium exploration projects in North America and has been carefully building up its acreage in the highly intriguing Smackover Brine play in Arkansas.

The company has locked up some 50,000 acres of ground in the Smackover through an exclusive abstract agreement and has leased 13,457 acres of this with another 8,600 acres under negotiation for its Superbird lithium project.

Securing the extra ground will take PFE towards the initial 20,000 acre target that non-executive chairman Barnaby Egerton-Warburton told Stockhead the company was aiming for to quantify a real commercial project.

With major players such as ExxonMobil holding large tracts of ground – 120,000 acres in the oil and gas giant’s case – Egerton-Warburton said the exclusivity agreement means that PFE has essentially shut out other publicly-listed juniors from building acreage position of any significance on this prime location.

Other companies that have significant leases in the region are Standard Lithium and Albemarle, the latter of which already produces bromine from the formation.

And just to highlight why the Smackover is in such high demand, ExxonMobil, which recently drilled multiple lithium brine wells on their acreage, has flagged that it could be producing lithium for more than 1 million EVs a year from 2030.

This confidence stems from the Smackover Formation having brines with +400ppm concentrations, amongst the highest lithium concentrations anywhere in the world.

Having ExxonMobil stand up and say that the Smackover is the place to be for lithium brines out of all the other great opportunities available globally also helps with PFE’s marketing of its own project to stakeholders.

However, while building a position in a red hot lithium brine play is undoubtedly important, it is the Smackover’s extensive oil exploration and production history that makes it every bit as exciting for PFE – especially at this early stage of operations.

Leveraging existing oil wells

The long history of oil exploration and production from the Smackover means that the region hosts many historically producing oil wells that have been plugged and abandoned after the reservoir or part of the reservoir they serviced became depleted.

For Pantera (and potentially some of the big players), these wells present a massive opportunity to carry out exploration at a much lower cost compared to other lithium brine areas.

Egerton-Warburton said re-entering an existing well can be done quickly and cheaply as it involves drilling through the concrete plugs set by the previous operator and running the logging and sampling tools.

“Most of these wells will allow you to get down to test the formation, brine, permeability and porosity,” he noted.

“Cost is US$150,000-200,000 (per well) and this is just to define your resource vs drilling a fresh well, which might cost you US$2m.”

“Realistically, we only need three wells, though it may well be that we have to drill one fresh well and have two re-entry wells.”

This is backed by Arkansas having what he described as an “amazing” services sector.

Egerton-Warburton says the company is currently analysing all the wells on its acreage and will move to re-enter wells in the next four to four months.

“Once we have samples, we will send them for grade and also run those samples through a DLE pilot plant and get some resources.”

PFE has already defined an exploration target of between 436,000t and 2.97Mt LCE at Superbird that underscores its potential scale and promising grade.

Direct lithium extraction (DLE) is of course the preferred method of lithium production in the Smackover Brine area as evaporation ponds are unsuitable due to environmental reasons, taking up large amounts of land, and the weather ensuring that evaporation won’t work in the first place.

Arkansas also has plenty of nuclear power, allowing any DLE plants in the region to benefit from lower power costs that are nearly 25% below the national average.

The road ahead

Besides re-entering historical oil wells and potentially drilling a new well to determine an initial JORC resource, the company will also continue to increase its leased acreage and might bring a pilot plant to site.

Egerton-Warburton added that a pilot plant will enable the company to produce a lithium chloride that can be sent to various providers to produce lithium carbonate.

 

Arkansas Smackover project now under full Pantera ownership

29th February 2024 By: Creamer Media Reporter

Australia-listed Pantera Minerals on Thursday announced it had completed the acquisition of Daytona Lithium, handing it 100% ownership of the Superbird lithium brine project, in the lithium-rich Smackover Formation in Arkansas, in the US.  

Pantera is now the only listed junior in the Arkansas Smackover lithium brine play and is adjacent and on trend from Exxon Mobil’s lithium brine project.

“Our project has the potential to enhance supply stability for businesses investing in electric vehicle and battery production plants in North America by offering a final product that is produced in Arkansas and remains in the United States. This makes the project an invaluable asset to these companies and bolsters the critical mineral security of the United States,” said CEO Matt Hansen.

Chairperson Barnaby Egerton-Warburton further commented that he had recently returned from the Arkansas Lithium Brine conference, held in Little Rock, which included discussions with industry participants and members of the Arkansas state government.

“The directors of Pantera are highly encouraged by the support expressed by the Governor of Arkansas Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her team and look forward to playing a major role in establishing the lithium brine industry in the Great State of Arkansas and the USA,” he said.

Pantera’s next steps at Superbird would be to re-enter a well to test brine grade, permeability and porosity from the Smackover formation. 

In Rush for Lithium, Miners Turn to the Oil Fields of Arkansas

The Smackover Formation in southern Arkansas was once a major oil producer. Now, companies hope to extract lithium — a key metal for electric vehicle batteries — from its underground brines using technologies they say could reduce mining’s carbon emissions and water use.

By Boyce Upholt • February 29, 2024 Published at the Yale School of the Environment

 

LINK TO FULL ARTICLE:

https://e360.yale.edu/features/arkansas-direct-lithium-extraction

The town of Smackover, Arkansas, was founded a hundred years ago when a sawmill operator got lucky: his wildcat oil well yielded a gusher. For a time in the 1920s, the oil field beneath the clay hills and swampy creeks in this stretch of southern Arkansas was the world’s most productive site. Now, boosters say the region will help usher the world into an oil-free future, thanks to the discovery of underground brines that are rich in lithium.

Lithium is one of the most important metals in the transition to renewable power. Lithium-ion batteries are, thanks to their light weight and high energy density, the most popular choice for storing energy in electric vehicles, and a potential tool for grid storage, too. Global production of the metal tripled throughout the 2010s, and demand is projected to increase as much as 40-fold by mid-century.

But that presents several conundrums. Though geologists have already identified more than 100 million tons of lithium across the globe, easily enough to meet projected demand for decades, the world’s supply is currently blasted out of rocks — which are then roasted at temperatures as high as 2,000 degrees F — or extracted from brines in the high Andes, a process that lowers the water table in an already arid region and leaves behind toxic residues. Given the carbon emissions from hard-rock mining and the water stress induced by evaporative mining, a recent article in Nature, written by five researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and an industry consultant, warned that “simply ramping up lithium production at existing sites could negate the benefits of the clean technologies they power.”

One possible solution, the authors suggest, is direct lithium extraction, or DLE, in which lithium is pulled out of brine while leaving other dissolved compounds behind. That process could conceivably avoid the need for enormous amounts of energy or water. DLE, though still in its infancy, is being tested in dozens of sites across the world, from Chile to California, and is reportedly in use already at a few sites in China. A report from UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation, prepared for The Nature Conservancy, says, “DLE appears to offer the lowest impacts of available extraction technologies.”

Other experts say the Smackover site, which is uncommonly well-suited to DLE, may be its most significant proving ground. That’s because the region features plenty of fresh water, brine with high concentrations of lithium, and an existing array of wells, pipelines, and refineries from ongoing mineral production, thus reducing the amount of land that would be disturbed.

But questions remain about DLE’s impacts, which have not been closely studied in Arkansas. How much water will these projects consume? Some scientists have expressed concerns that DLE might be more water-intensive than its promoters suggest. And what happens with DLE’s wastes, which can include some of the same toxins left behind in evaporative ponds? Much of the lithium mining companies’ data is proprietary, hindering research efforts, and pollution from existing brine-extraction industries that target bromine has raised questions about Arkansas agencies’ oversight. There are few environmental advocacy groups in this rural region of the state, but national groups have expressed concerns about the many unknowns surrounding the technology.

The core idea of direct extraction is hardly new: many of the techniques now being tested at lithium mines were developed for use in desalination and wastewater treatment. Perhaps the simplest form of DLE, at least conceptually, is a selective membrane, which acts like a sieve that allows only lithium to pass through. Other approaches use physical “sorbents” — materials that are designed to selectively bond with lithium — or an ion exchange process. The brine can be reinjected into the ground after the lithium has been extracted, helping to reduce environmental impacts.

Already, such technologies have managed to recover as much as 95 percent of the lithium in experimental tests, a paper in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment noted last year. However, that accomplishment comes with a caveat: less than a third of published DLE experiments have been conducted on real-world brines. And because the concentration of brines — and the make-up of other compounds in the mix — vary widely, every site will require a tailored approach.

Compared to hard rock mining, DLE uses far less energy to produce the same amount of lithium. Compared to evaporative mining, the picture is more complicated. In the high Andes, brines are pumped into vast pools, and because water is evaporated using free heat provided by the sun, energy consumption is low. But pools can spread across thousands of acres, where heavy metals like arsenic and radioactive materials like uranium can be left behind, say research scientists in the field.

The U.S. Department of Energy has supported research into DLE for more than a decade, though not in Arkansas. Instead, federal scientists have focused mostly on California’s Salton Sea, where an active geothermal field could provide low-carbon power to the DLE process. The Energy Department’s interest is partially a matter of geopolitics: China has cornered the market on lithium refining, has already produced 70 percent of the world’s lithium batteries, and Chinese companies are moving to acquire mines across the world. To encourage domestic production, the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act offers a tax credit for electric vehicles whose “critical minerals,” including lithium, are mined and refined in the United States or its trade partners.

But the geology of the Salton Sea presents major technical challenges. The brines are hot, saline, and slightly acidic, and it’s difficult to find an extractive technology that can withstand those conditions. The DLE technology would be added to existing geothermal power plants that already use 50,000 gallons of brine every minute — “like drinking out of a firehose,” says Michael McKibben, a geochemist at the University of California, Riverside — so the technology must be able to extract lithium very quickly.

Conditions appear more amenable in Arkansas, which sits at the heart of the “Smackover Formation,” a brine-rich expanse of limestone that stretches in a thin crescent from Texas to Florida and is named for the old oil-boom town that sits near its center. The formation contains less lithium overall than the Salton Sea, but its brines aren’t as hot and acidic, and they contain much higher concentrations of the mineral. In October, the Canadian firm Standard Lithium announced that a well in the Texas portion of the formation had yielded the highest concentration of lithium yet recorded in a North American brine.

Another advantage of working in Arkansas is its pre-existing infrastructure. In the 1950s, geologists found that the region’s brine contained high levels of bromine, which is used as a flame retardant. A brine-processing industry soon developed and remains a significant local industry. Now, some companies are planning to use those same facilities to produce lithium. That’s a win for industry, as it lowers capital costs, but also for the environment, The Nature Conservancy noted in a 2022 report on lithium extraction, because no new land has to be cleared.

This is an ideal scenario for lithium production since it reduces impacts on local ecosystems, says Douglas Zollner, director of science and strategy for The Nature Conservancy’s Arkansas field office. He cautions, though, that as the industry grows, it could move beyond such “brownfield” sites into new “greenfield” facilities.

Currently, a large share of proposed U.S. DLE projects are in Arkansas: Standard Lithium, backed by Koch Industries, has been running a demonstration DLE project in Arkansas since 2020, while lithium giant Albemarle is investigating whether DLE technology can be added to its Arkansas bromine facilities. In May, ExxonMobil purchased the mineral rights to 120,000 acres in Arkansas and in December dug its first lithium well. The company has said it will use conventional oil and gas drilling methods to draw brine from reservoirs some 10,000 feet underground and then use DLE to separate lithium from saltwater. Exxon announced a 2027 target date for commercial production and claims it will produce enough lithium by 2030 to power a million electric vehicles. It’s now shopping for a DLE technology to license.

Why the rush to mine lithium could dry up the high Andes. Read more.

ExxonMobil’s presence is particularly important, given the volatility of the lithium market, says Shon Hiatt, director of the Business of Energy Transition Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. The price of the metal fell 80 percent last year, following a drop in demand for EVs in China, leading to layoffs at production facilities across the world. ExxonMobil, though, is well positioned to weather the downturn. “The price can be super low in 2024 and they don’t care,” Hiatt says. “They’re going to create a scale so that when the price comes up, it’s going to be profitable in another year or two.” The scale of investment in the region, he says, makes Arkansas a critical test case for DLE.

 

But questions remain about the oversight of these Arkansas projects. While federal permits will be required before companies drill reinjection wells, so long as projects are not on federal land and do not receive federal funding, they will not be subject to the extensive reviews required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The Arkansas Division of Environmental Quality, one of several state agencies that will grant permits, has been criticized for its sometimes-lax policies. (The ADEQ did not respond to a request for comment.)

Despite the excitement over the potential of DLE, there are still questions that scientists need to address, says Alexandre Chagnes, a lithium mining expert at the Université de Lorraine in France, who co-authored the 2023 paper in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment. Brines sometimes need to be “pre-processed” before direct extraction begins, adjusting their heat or acidity. There are post-processing steps after extraction, too. Data on the energy costs of these steps are “scarce or not available,” the study said. In traditional lithium mining, of both hard rock and brines, pre- and post-processing accounts for the vast majority of carbon emissions, so the missing data makes comparisons difficult.

James Blair, a geographer at California State Polytechnic University who studies the lithium mining industry, notes that despite industry claims, DLE’s water usage remains a major unanswered question. “Depending on the circumstance of the operation, it may even be more exhausting and depleting of water resources” than other types of lithium mining, he says. In the ion-exchange process, for example, fresh water is needed to rinse sorbents from the lithium.

Chagnes and his co-authors analyzed 57 recent reports on water-dependent DLE technologies and found that a quarter indicated freshwater use at rates 10 times higher than the Andean evaporative facilities used as a reference. Another quarter lacked data entirely. While Chagnes is hopeful that the technology will indeed reduce water use, since much information comes from the industry itself, “it is always difficult to know exactly the truth,” he says.

One plant at Salar del Hombre Muerto, in Argentina, has long employed DLE in a hybrid, two-step process that also includes partial evaporation. Data from the plant’s operator, Livent, suggests the plant consumes more freshwater than other local lithium mines that use evaporative ponds alone.

On the Salton Sea, a community group, Comite Civico del Valle, has threatened to sue to stop construction of a lithium plant in part because of concerns over water use in an area already experiencing a megadrought. The group estimates that proposed DLE projects in the region would consume more freshwater than some evaporative mining in the high Andes. The brines could contain arsenic, lead, cadmium, and other harmful metals that would not be reinjected, the group says, noting that more clarity about waste disposal is necessary.

Water is plentiful in Arkansas, at least for now (scientists expect climate change will make droughts in the state more severe), and companies are making some efforts to reduce water consumption. Albemarle is piloting the use of membrane-based technologies, which Chagnes says will use less water. But studies suggest that the Smackover Formation is connected with the freshwater aquifer that lies closer to the surface, a kind of connectivity that The Nature Conservancy, in its 2022 report, suggested should be analyzed.

Daniel Larsen, a hydrogeologist at the University of Memphis, noted that in a properly designed system, damaging impacts on surrounding waters would be unlikely. But he said errors in construction or operation, as well as natural disasters, “could release fluids at the surface and damage water quality in wetlands, streams and lakes.”

Still, The Nature Conservancy — the one environmental group that has publicly commented on the Smackover developments — is cautiously supportive. The world needs to make a transition toward renewable power “with eyes wide open,” says Zollner. Developing a low-carbon economy “will take an incredible amount of infrastructure development, and we must minimize the environmental impact without halting the move into a low-carbon future.”

Rock on, Jen! How a geoscientist looks for lithium

exxonmobil.com

Link to full article:  https://corporate.exxonmobil.com/what-we-do/delivering-industrial-s...

Key takeaways: 

  • Lithium project underway in Arkansas
  • We’re reaching lithium deep underground
  • Geoscience is key to the project’s success

Like many science-loving kids, Jennifer Anthony had a rock collection growing up.

Today, Jen’s still into rocks. She’s one of the geoscientists supporting ExxonMobil’s landmark plan to produce lithium for electric vehicles, by pulling it out of salty brine water in limestone rock thousands of feet below the ground in southwest Arkansas.

Jen – who has a master’s in geoscience from Penn State and is mom to an 8-year-old daughter – has worked for ExxonMobil for nearly 20 years. During her career, she’s supported oil and natural gas drilling projects all over the world, including in Guyana, Angola and Vietnam.

Now she’s focused on Arkansas, where we’re ramping up our plan to become a major supplier of lithium for electric vehicles.

Our lithium work is moving fast. Just three months after we announced our lithium plan, we’ve drilled several appraisal wells to sample brine for testing – and produced small batches of battery-grade lithium. “Our goal is to gather information to help produce the resource most effectively,” Jen said.

How do Jen and her colleagues do it? They use advanced technologies to “look” into limestone thousands of feet below the ground. Much like a pumice stone, the rock is porous, and the pores are filled with salty brine that contains lithium.

“We’re looking for the sections of rock that are most porous, because these areas are more likely to hold a lot of brine,” Jen said. “We’re also looking for areas where the brine might have a high concentration of lithium. That’s where we want to take our samples.”

How do we get samples of liquid trapped in rock more than a mile underground?

  • First, we drill a hole (about a foot wide), then lower a probe into the hole via a steel cable. The probe is equipped with advanced electronics that can send and receive information back to our people above ground.
  • Once the probe reaches the desired depth (8,000-10,000 feet), it attaches itself to the wellbore wall, and uses a hydraulic pump to suck the brine out of the rock, filling several one-liter steel containers contained inside the probe.
  • We then pull the probe up to the surface and the brine-filled containers are sent on to the lab for testing. Scroll down to see some photos of this work in action.

It sounds complicated, and it is. The work requires geoscientists like Jen, but also reservoir engineers, drilling engineers, well logging engineers, petrophysicists, operations geologists, and geochemists. But it’s also very similar to the types of work we’ve been doing for decades in oil and natural gas.

Rocking out, even on vacation

Ultimately, we plan to bring large volumes of brine to the surface, separate the lithium, and inject the brine back underground. Production is expected to begin in 2027. By 2030, we hope to make enough to support the production of about 1 million electric vehicles.

Jen says she’s enjoying putting her geology skills to use in a different way. “It’s great to be able to apply our skills to a new product, one that will help the energy transition,” she said.

When asked if she pursues her love of rocks outside of working hours, Jen smiled and said, “Well, I’m about to take a vacation…”

Her destination? The Grand Canyon.

Arkansas Lithium Play Area Map - Click on image to enlarge

Direct Lithium Extraction: Unlocking Brine Power

Cleantech Group

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACo8icpbGaA

What might be the value of brine elements other than lithium.  I feel sure that all the DLE companies are looking at that and feel that mineral owners should be aware of the potential value when negotiating a brine lease.

Mining the treasures locked away in produced water

Reports and Proceedings  Texas A&M University  News Release 1-Mar-2024

The water recovered from hydrocarbon reservoirs contains critical minerals that are key to many technical and industrial operations. 

In an ironic twist, a treasure trove of critical minerals is dumped out with water considered too polluted and expensive to clean.

Texas A&M University researcher Dr. Hamidreza Samouei is investigating the components of produced water and says this waste byproduct of oil and gas operations contains nearly every element in the periodic table, including those of significant interest to national economies.

His goal is to treat the water using unwanted carbon dioxide (CO2) in stages to recover these valuable elements and ultimately produce fresh water for agricultural use once the processes are complete.

“Recognizing the latent value within produced water can offer tangible solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges, from CO2 emissions to the increasing scarcity of certain minerals and water itself,” said Samouei, a research assistant professor in the Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering.

Samouei’s “brine mining” research was featured in a January 2024 article in the Society of Petroleum Engineers’ Journal of Petroleum Technology titled “Liquid Goldmine: unlocking the Critical Mineral Potential of Produc....” He introduced the topic at the Middle East Water Week Conference and Exhibition held December 2023 in Saudi Arabia and will report his most recent discoveries at the Annual Produced Water Society Conference on February 2024 in Houston, Texas.

Why is produced water thrown away?

Water accumulates in subsurface areas where geological functions happen, like hydrocarbon reservoirs, and it dissolves and stores vast quantities of minerals and other elements. During oil and gas operations, an average of six 42-gallon barrels of this “produced” water are recovered for every one barrel of oil, and in rare cases, up to a staggering ratio of 500 to 1. It is up to 10 times saltier than seawater and contains about 6,000 times more minerals.

In 2020, the annual global quantity of produced water recovered from oil and gas operations surpassed 240 billion barrels, with Texas alone recovering 33 million barrels daily. The oilfields of the Permian Basin in Texas generate more produced water than all other U.S. shale plays combined. Treating this vast volume is cost-prohibitive, so produced water is mainly considered a waste product and injected in subsurface disposal fields for safe containment.

The hidden values in brine 

Since everything in produced water has never been cataloged, Samouei’s research began with the basics. He collected produced water samples around the U.S. and created a standardized method of analyzing the water’s content. That’s when he learned it contained nearly everything listed in the periodic table of elements.

Samouei’s findings included critical minerals like lithium, rubidium, cesium, gallium and platinum group metals – substances fundamental to the current and future technologies advancing computer, energy and transportation industries. More importantly, like other brines, produced water featured less expensive but abundant quantities of sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium – used in manufacturing processes, fertilizer production and other industries.

All these minerals can be far more lucrative than the oil that comes up with produced water, so water reclamation costs could be easily offset by selling the recovered minerals.

A better treatment

Samouei explained that while desalinating produced water has been considered, the approach of first mining all the salt and minerals before treating the water had not been explored.

Much of his current research centers on developing the best flow of methods for extracting valuable minerals from brine in stages of refinement using CO2 desalination, which he says is “a groundbreaking approach to targeted mineral recovery from produced water.” The process includes a variety of filtration techniques, such as ultrafiltration and nanofiltration, and even utilizes reverse osmosis.

Commercialization potential

The research is creating a baseline for brine mining, whether using produced water or other brackish sources, but Samouei said further development would need a funding source. Government sponsors are concentrating on critical mineral mining in places such as the sea floor or even asteroids, not on something as close to home as produced water.

Samouei said he hopes to change the oil and gas industry's view of produced water, first to see it as a lucrative means of receiving money and later, perhaps in 10 years, as a source for their own mining operations.

“Produced water may not be beautiful if we look at it as a waste,” he said, “but it will be impactful to the world’s next generations if we look at it as a resource.”

Journal

Journal of Petroleum Technology

Article Title

Liquid Goldmine: Unlocking the Critical Mineral Potential of Produced Water Using Carbon Dioxide

Article Publication Date

1-Jan-2024

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

I have mineral interest in south miller county and I
Have negotiated a lease bonus of $250 per acre and royalty Of $67 per acre. It is a verbal agreement
So I am waiting on final lease agreement. I would
Love to hear if anyone has any thoughts on the
Numbers. I have already leased early on in
Columbia county considerable acreage to albemarle
And others for less money.

The Arkansas O&G Commission will not set the royalty rate on lithium until their April meeting.  I wonder how that ruling will effect those that have already executed a lease if at all.  There are a number of other valuable components of SMK brine. In addition to lithium and bromine there are rubidium, cesium, gallium and platinum group metals – substances fundamental to the current and future technologies advancing computer, energy and transportation industries. More importantly, like other brines, produced water featured less expensive but abundant quantities of sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium – used in manufacturing processes, fertilizer production and other industries.

 

This article from ExxonMobil appeared in the Magnolia Reporter this morning.

Rock on: How a geoscientist looks for lithium

  • ExxonMobil press release

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