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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Cloudbreak Discovery Strikes Lithium Data Deal with Lonestar's Subsidiary in Texas

Discover the partnership between Cloudbreak Discovery and Smackover Resources as they embark on a quest to unearth lithium potential in Texas, shaping the future of mineral exploration and resource development.

BNN Correspondents  27 Feb 2024 bnnbreaking.com

Cloudbreak Discovery Strikes Lithium Data Deal with Lonestar's Subsidiary in Texas

In a move that underscores the burgeoning demand for critical minerals, Cloudbreak Discovery has inked an exploration agreement with Smackover Resources, a subsidiary of Lonestar Lithium. This pivotal transaction involves the sale of a comprehensive database focusing on lithium targets within the eastern expanse of Texas. As we pivot towards a more electrified future, the significance of lithium, often dubbed 'white gold', cannot be overstated. This deal not only marks a significant milestone for Cloudbreak Discovery but also for the lithium extraction industry in Texas, potentially setting the stage for a new era of resource development.

Unveiling the Treasure Map: A Lithium Odyssey

At the heart of this exploration agreement lies Cloudbreak's proprietary database, a culmination of intensive regional modeling and data compilation efforts. This treasure trove of information includes potential lithium targets throughout eastern Texas, a region now poised on the brink of a lithium rush. Under the terms of the deal, Cloudbreak will receive an upfront bounty of two million shares in Lonestar, alongside USD$25,000 for each qualifying transaction property derived from the database. Moreover, a 0.5% royalty on lithium produced from these properties will flow into Cloudbreak's coffers, highlighting the enduring value of their exhaustive research and compilation work. This agreement, spanning a three-year period, reflects a shared vision of valuation accretion and a strategic approach to mineral exploration and development.

The Lithium Landscape: Challenges and Opportunities

Lithium, a critical component in the batteries that power everything from smartphones to electric vehicles (EVs), is at the forefront of the clean energy transition. However, the path to increasing lithium production is fraught with challenges, including environmental concerns, the technical complexities of extraction, and the geopolitical intricacies of global supply chains. This agreement between Cloudbreak and Smackover Resources signifies a collaborative effort to navigate these hurdles, leveraging Cloudbreak's in-depth regional knowledge and Smackover's operational expertise. By focusing on Texas, a state with a rich history of energy exploration, this partnership aims to unlock new lithium resources, contributing to the diversification and security of global lithium supplies.

Looking Ahead: The Road to Resource Development

Andrew Male, the Interim Chief Executive of Cloudbreak, emphasized the deal's significance, noting the extensive effort involved in assembling the lithium database and its potential to drive valuation accretion through strategic transactions. As this partnership unfolds, the eyes of the industry will undoubtedly be on Texas, watching closely as these companies embark on their quest to unearth the lithium potential lying dormant beneath its surface. The success of this venture could herald a new chapter in the United States' mineral exploration narrative, one where innovation, collaboration, and sustainability converge to meet the insatiable demand for lithium in a rapidly electrifying world.

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.”

I am wondering if anyone else has received an offer for a Brine Lease in Titus county.

My offer comes from Top Dog Land and Minerals, LLC, working on behalf of Texas Lone Star

Brine, LLC.

Since this is still a relatively new venture in Titus county, I’m wondering what would constitute a fair offer insofar as bonus, royalty and term is concerned.

This is strictly a brine lease, no minerals.

C. W., we haven't seen much in the way of royalty offers and the Texas legislature may have something to say on that.  We're hoping for a different model than how Arkansas is treating brine royalty.  There the royalty appears to be a set dollar figure per weight of processed lithium as that is the model in place for bromine sourced from brine.  The Arkansas O&G Commission meets tomorrow and we may know more then.  Any terms you can share from your offer would be appreciated.  If memory serves, Texas Lone Star Brine may be the LLC that Standard Lithium is using for leasing in E TX.

Skip,

Thank you for your response. This is clearly not about a big payday, but just wanting a better understanding of things as they pertain to this, as I live in Mississippi now.

Terms are as follows:  Bonus - $60/net acre, Royalty - $40/net acre/year during Brine Extraction/Injection

                                    Term - 5 years with option to extend

C. W. we are all struggling to get a better understanding.  The terms you have been offered basically reflect the Arkansas approach to brine royalty.  Those regulations were established primarily for the extraction of bromine, not lithium.  There are a number of unanswered questions about DLE for lithium and other component elements from SMK brines.  Hopefully Texas will adopt a more mineral owner friendly means of royalty payment along the lines of traditional O&G leases which leave some room for mineral owners to negotiate.  From what we have seen and discussed so far, I think that surface use questions are as important as royalty questions.  The brine supply wells will need to located on established "sweet spots" and will be expensive wells due to wellbore diameter and the requirement for chromium casing strings.  Likewise pipelines and associated infrastructure will need to include metallurgy that can withstand the highly caustic nature of SMK brines.  That means new rights-of-way and new pipelines.  We all need to think of this like the traditional O&G world of conventional reservoirs, not unconventional reservoirs such as the Haynesville Shale.  I suggest not getting in any rush and staying tuned as we work to find more answers.

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.

We have put a clause in our leases retaining a royalty on any extracted minerals in produced water for several years now. 

Then you are ahead of the curve.  Myself and the attorneys that I work with are holding off on royalty language until we see what the Texas legislature does in regard to brine regulations.

Thank you for sharing the above. All very interesting.
We shall see!

Although this article is about ExxonMobil in Arkansas, it shows the means to drill test wells to determine the "sweet spots" for SMK brine supply wells.

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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