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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Thanks again Skip and I agree on not interrupting the expert. 

This is the podcast he is referring to if you didn't see it on the previous page: The Future of Lithium with Daniel Layton and John Burba of IBAT

These are 20k tonne units and they could be replicated across the counties and could be moved after 5-10 years to new wells, rather than permanently being housed in one location.

I saw your post and I watched the video.  Thanks.  We touched on Dr. Burba and his DLE patents early in our discussions.  Now almost two years ago.  Since then the predominate interest has been on the big lithium companies and interest from big oil.  There are two competing versions of how to establish DLE operations.  IBAT's approach has some advantages that make it more likely to benefit small O&G operators and investors who would like to invest in leasing depleted O&G fields where lithium concentrations and water volumes are economic.  This is not only an opportunity for those companies and investors, it is an opportunity for more land and mineral owners to participate in and draw revenue from their ownership.

What I hope that viewers of the podcast take away is the fact that it is not just the Smackover formation that may hold economic volumes of brine and lithium.  Although these areas will once again be limited to area "sweet spots", the formations that may work could be Cotton Valley, Hosston (Travis Peak) and other formations including those that were depleted long ago.  Something  that land and mineral owners should be aware of.  We need to spread the word.

Skip, potential in other formations should be prompting operators to take as many produced water samples as possible and run the analyses to identify lithium and other mineral concentrations.

This data base will help serve as the road map to future "zones of interest".

I still think the Rodessa is a prime candidate due to its unique stratigraphic relationships with other formations.

Lithium-rush miners are flocking to Arkansas more than 100 years after an oil discovery in the Smackover Field.

 May 29, 2024 By Andrew Yule spe.org

https://jpt.spe.org/twa/from-oil-patch-to-ev-industry-hub-a-history...

A Surprising Announcement

On 1 July 1922, roughnecks discovered oil in the Smackover Field of Union County, Arkansas. At the end of an exhilarating (albeit dramatic day), a photographer captured an image of the weary, oil-coated crew. The image depicts them standing amongst the tall pines of the Southern Arkansas wilderness, which is not exactly what you picture when you think of the future capital of the American electric vehicle (EV) industry.

But ExxonMobil thinks differently. In November 2023, the company announced its acquisition of 120,000 gross acres in the Smackover Formation in southern Arkansas, stating its intention to become a leading producer of lithium, a critical metal for EV batteries and the global energy transition.

ExxonMobil’s interest in lithium isn’t necessarily surprising. While lithium is certainly different from oil, it still is an extractive, which is ExxonMobil’s specialty. In 2015, less than 30% of lithium demand was for batteries and by 2030, batteries are expected to account for 95 percent of lithium demand. According to some estimates, the demand is increasing exponentially.

In 2021, 540,000 tonnes of LCE were produced globally. By 2030, demand estimates range from 2 to 3 Mt, a four- to sixfold increase. Many predict there could be a shortfall of approximately 40,000 to 60,000 tonnes of LCE in 2025 due to potential regional shortages and intermittent delays in the near future. These delays are attributed to the time required to develop a discovery mine (roughly 10 years). Obviously, ExxonMobil is preparing to fill this gap in the market.

But, lithium in an Arkansas oil field? Yes, you heard that right. As the song by Chris Stapleton goes, “If you want to get down, you gotta get to Arkansas.” Lithium-rush miners are getting there, and fast.

Why the Smackover?

The Smackover Formation is enormous, sprawling over parts of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Since the initial discovery of oil in the Smackover, over 1,000 oil wells have been drilled in approximately 600 former and currently producing oil and gas fields. While there is still oil production from the Smackover, it is no longer newsworthy compared to the vast reserves in neighboring US basins.

Thanks to the Smackover discovery, however, wildcatters serendipitously found something else: bromine-rich brine, produced alongside hydrocarbons. The bromine is recovered from the brines, and the remaining brine is reinjected back into the well. Arkansas is now the second leading producer of bromine, which is used in fire retardants, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and certain drilling fluids.

In the 1960s, something else was discovered in the Smackover brine, particularly in brine deposits in southern Arkansas: lithium. And not just a little lithium. A lot of lithium.

Several of the Arkansas brine deposits contain over 300 mg/L of lithium in the composition. For perspective, operators must have a brine composition of at least 80 mg/L of lithium to be profitable. Interestingly, other areas within the Smackover do not necessarily have such high concentrations of lithium. Nor do neighboring formations. Though we don’t know exactly why this is, some studies suggest that the shape of the formations caused the lithium to pool together in this specific area.

Smackover formation.png The Smackover Formation spans across several states in the southern United States, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
Source: Arkansas Oil & Gas Commission.

Traditional Lithium Extraction

Traditionally, there are two major ways to extract lithium: Hard rock extraction and brine extraction.

Hard rock lithium extraction is only possible in areas that have, well, hard rock. Hard rock containing a mineral called spodumene (LiAlSi2O6) is particularly desirable as it contains the highest lithium concentration.

Unfortunately, spodumene is a miserly mineral, trapping lithium within a strong, α-monoclinic crystal structure, releasing the lithium only at great cost. To wrest the lithium from the spodumene, producers must pulverize the rock and, often, send it on a transcontinental journey to specialized processing facilities. In these factories, the spodumene is subjected to intense temperatures, in excess of 1,832°F (1,000°C), and unique and harsh chemical reactions requiring large volumes of sulfuric acid (H2SO4). The intermediate material must be further converted and purified into “usable” lithium for EV batteries. The final result is usually a measly 1 tonne of lithium (LCE) for every 8 tonnes of spodumene. All in, LCE costs from hard rock sources to final product are approximately.... The process is intensive and expensive.

The other lithium extraction method is brine. Globally, 31 Mt of lithium is estimated to be available in brine re... Unsurprisingly, most brine sources come from oil fields. In countries like Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina, this brine is stored in large lithium extraction reservoirs, also known as salars, where the sun slowly evaporates enough water to concentrate the lithium. From there, the lithium is processed into a usable product.

Screenshot 2024-05-14 at 09-51-22 Global Metals & Mining Direct Lithium Extraction A potential game changing technology - report.pdf.png Traditional pond lithium extraction method.
Source: Goldman Sachs

The average cost to produce lithium products via the traditional pond method is USD 5,580/tLCE, which is significantly m...

So why is ExxonMobil interested in the brine of Arkansas? The answer is an almost 2x margin advantage over hard-rock production. Unfortunately, as it stands now, most brine-extracted lithium is not battery-grade material and is used in other markets. To change this, either additional processes must be put in place at the production sites for improved purity, or advances must be made to increase tolerance of the impurities. Neither is an easy fix.

Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE)

So how does ExxonMobil plan to become a leading producer of lithium for EV batteries if Arkansas is a brine extraction region that does not produce the LCE necessary for batteries? According to the November 2023 press release, ExxonMobil’s plan is to use direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology to separate lithium from the brine. The lithium will then be further reacted to battery-grade material, while the brine byproduct will be reinjected back into the formation. If this process sounds familiar, it’s because it mirrors the Smackover bromine extraction process almost exactly. 

1. Produce high-brine-content water.

2. Extract desired mineral.

3. Re-inject water back into the formation.

The advantages of DLE are numerous:

  • EV-grade lithium: Compared to traditional methods, DLE offers an innovative way to improve processing costs and purification specifications, which will allow brine lithium sources to be used in EV batteries.
  • Smaller environmental footprint: DLE takes up less physical space, bypassing the need for large evaporation ponds.
  • Fast development: A new lithium mine can take 10 years to develop from first discovery to full operation. Salar ponds require roughly 2 years to produce lithium. DLE takes advantage of already existing processes, which means the 150 fields in Arkansas that are already producing and mature are more easily exploited for lithium production right away.
  • Proven technologies: DLE techniques are proven technologies. If you’ve spent any time in a chemical or analytical lab, you may have used some or all of them. Some extraction processes DLE may incorporate include adsorption columns, ion exchange, solvent extraction, and membrane separation.
  • Less energy and fewer harsh chemicals required: Following extraction, further purification and concentration of the lithium salt solution, typically LiCl, uses chemical softening and impurity removal processes that are industry standard processes for water and wastewater treatment (e.g., brackish water reverse osmosis). None of these processes are as energy-intensive as the traditional methods, nor do they require harsh chemicals.
  • Fast, local production: DLE enables lithium to be converted into battery-grade material onsite, as opposed to the hard rock extraction method, which requires lithium to be exported to distant laboratories for production.
  • Proven success: Standard Lithium has been operating an industrial-scale fully integrated DLE demonstration plant at the LANXESS South facility in Arkansas since May 2020 and has had great success producing high-purity lithium. Much of their success can be attributed to knowledge sharing from the Arkansas bromine extraction industry.
Screenshot 2024-05-14 at 09-55-16 July 2021 Corp Presentation.pdf.png Direct lithium extraction process.
Source: Standard Lithium

Will DLE in Arkansas Succeed?

Despite all the good news about DLE, it is still an expensive endeavor. Will the investment be worth it? Within their LANXESS lease parcels, Standard Lithium reports a Measured and Indicated Resource of 2.8 Mt LCE at an average lithium concentrate of 148 mg/L and Proven and Probable Reserves of 208 Kt LCE at an average concentration of 217 mg/L. Recall that conventional estimates call for a concentration of >80 mg/L to be viable. If these numbers are correct, that is extreme viability.

But does the Smackover have enough supply to support the increasing demand for EV technology?

The answer is maybe. There have been somewhat contentious debates over how much lithium actually goes into an EV battery. It seems the true amount of lithium in a battery isn’t clearly reported by manufacturers. Paul Martin has an interesting 2017 LinkedIn post that lands on ~160 g Li metal per kWh of battery power (~850 g LCE). A typical EV battery with 50 kWh capacity equates to 40 kg LCE per battery. Assuming there are 40 million vehicles on the road in 2030 (at 50 kWh/vehicle), that puts demand at 1.7 Mt LCE in 2030.

Good News, Well Timed

ExxonMobil’s news comes at an opportune time. Once the largest producer of lithium in the world, the US has steadily lost market share in lithium production for over 30..., landing it in eighth place in 2021. Whether it is oil, gas, or renewables, it is critical that the US achieves energy independence soon. Increasing lithium production will be a strong move in the right direction. ExxonMobil’s activity in the Smackover will also help to soften the blow in the predicted 2025 lithium shortage.

Screenshot 2024-05-14 at 09-58-22 Visualizing the World’s Largest Lithium Producers.png Global lithium rankings, 2022.
Source: Visual Capitalist

ExxonMobil’s partnership with Arkansas is particularly exciting, as Arkansas is one of the few states with well-established production and brine extraction. Arkansas brine laws should also offer an easy transition and avenue for producers wanting to operate in Arkansas and for other states wanting to attract local business for the development of lithium production.

Will Arkansas be the future capital of the EV revolution? There are many unpredictable variables at play, and time will tell. The Chris Stapleton song does ring true though: “What I found in the Ozark mountains I ain't ever seen. It sure does feel like you're sittin' on top of the world to me.”

For Further Reading

Firm Claims Texas Well Holds Highest Lithium Concentrations in Nort... by T. Jacobs, JPT.

Equinor Takes Ownership Stake of US Lithium Brine Projects by T. Jacobs, JPT.

Electric Rush: ExxonMobil To Drill Enough Lithium Wells To Make 1 M... by T. Jacobs, JPT.

ExxonMobil Drilling First Lithium Well in Arkansas, Aims to be a Le..., ExxonMobil.

Arkansas Smackover Projects, Standard Lithium.

How Much Lithium Is in a Li-Ion Vehicle Battery? by P. Martin.

Oil in Arkansas—The Smackover Field, Historical Marker Database.


TerraVolta Announces Flagship U.S. Lithium Project and Partnership with The Energy & Minerals Group

TerraVolta Announces Flagship U.S. Lithium Project and Partnership with The Energy & Minerals Group

News provided by TerraVolta Resources Jun 10, 2024, 9:00 AM ET

HOUSTON, June 10, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- TerraVolta Resources, LLC ("TerraVolta" or the "Company"), a leading U.S. critical minerals exploration and production company, today announced significant developments regarding its flagship lithium project in the Smackover formation across Texas and Arkansas.  In early 2023, The Energy & Minerals Group ("EMG"), one of the largest private investors across the natural resources complex globally, made a substantial equity commitment to TerraVolta and, by virtue of fundings to date, is the majority owner of TerraVolta.  This investment from EMG accelerated TerraVolta's progress towards becoming a premier producer of U.S.-based lithium, enabling the Company to secure a significant strategic position in the Smackover Formation complemented by the drilling of a successful appraisal and supply well that further validated TerraVolta's premium resource and industry-leading lithium concentrations.

Based in Houston, Texas, TerraVolta was founded in 2022 by former executives in the energy and technology sectors.  The Company's mission is to be the leading domestic producer of lithium and other critical minerals by using advanced technology and sustainable practices.  TerraVolta is led by Jamie Liang (President and CEO), Ross Tomson (Chief Technology Officer), and Nicholas Muscara (VP, Land and Business Development).  TerraVolta was one of the earliest entrants in the Smackover, a geologic formation that spans Texas to Florida and is one of the most expansive and prolific lithium resources in the world.

"We are excited to announce our substantial resource position in connection with a significant investment by one of the largest and most sophisticated energy investors," said Mr. Liang.  "Utilizing advanced subsurface analysis, our team identified the Smackover as a compelling prospect for lithium and other critical mineral development.  Our land team has spent years accumulating these assets and has built a world-class position.  The successful drilling and completion of our brine supply well validates the quality of our resource and enables the Company to advance to our piloting phase as we aggressively aim for commercial production.  TerraVolta's lithium projects will enable the U.S. to build out a domestic battery supply chain and reduce our reliance on foreign sources."

"EMG's investment in TerraVolta is representative of our 'low carbon prosperity' strategy via which we develop high quality, economically viable resources focused on the critical input commodities required to achieve global decarbonization goals. To this end, given the large scale, concentrated acreage position assembled over the past year complemented by the successful drilling results, we believe the TerraVolta platform has the potential to become a key source of lithium for the U.S. battery industry," said John Raymond, Executive Chairman of EMG.

About TerraVolta
TerraVolta Resources is a U.S. critical minerals exploration and production company.  Based in Houston, Texas, the Company's mission is to pioneer a more sustainable future by becoming the leading domestic producer of lithium and other critical materials.  For more information, please visit www.terravolta.com.

About EMG
The Energy & Minerals Group (EMG) is a specialized natural resource focused private equity firm founded in 2006 with current assets under management ("AUM") of approximately $14 billion as of March 31, 2024. In addition, EMG's funds and co-investments have returned approximately $11 billion to Limited Partners to date. EMG targets equity investments of $150 million to $1,000 million across the natural resource industry, which includes the extraction and processing of the critical metals and minerals to facilitate decarbonization as well as upstream and midstream energy.

Media Contact
media@terravolta.com

EnergyX Announces Major Lithium Development in Ark-La-Tex Region

6/20/2024

Press Release Tell Us What You're Thinking!

 

AUSTIN, Texas — Energy Exploration Technologies Inc. (EnergyX) has announced a major lithium project in North America, Project Lonestar Lithium. The project aims to solidify EnergyX’s position as a leader in the global energy transition and bid to help secure the US battery supply chain.

This is the second major lithium project announcement for EnergyX, who in 2023 acquired 90,000 acres of lithium mining concessions in Chile, the second largest lithium producing country in the world, and launched Project Black Giant. In the same year, the US Department of Energy selected EnergyX for a $5 million grant, with a $5 million company match, to build a demonstration plant to produce lithium hydroxide from geothermal brines in the United States. This plant sets the foundation for Project Lonestar Lithium.

Project Lonestar Lithium, located in the “Ark-La-Tex” region, will have a target lithium production of 5,000 tons/year in Phase 1, and 25,000 tons/year in Phase 2. Currently, the largest active lithium plant in the US produces 5,000 tons/year, underscoring the vast potential of Project Lonestar to ramp up US lithium production. Earlier in 2023, EnergyX closed its Series B financing from strategic institutional partners including General Motors and POSCO, who have first rights to portions of EnergyX’s lithium production offtake.

As EnergyX has been steadily moving towards commercialization, the company has also partnered with world-renowned Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) Partner, Kiewet, to undertake the initial front end engineering plans of Project Lonestar, and to help enhance the scalability and efficiency of EnergyX’s suite of LiTAS™ DLE lithium technologies.

EnergyX CEO Teague Egan commented on the project, saying “Project Lonestar Lithium will take us one step closer to securing the US battery supply chain.” Teague continued, “This has been a long time in the making, and we still have a long way to go, but it is crucial that US-based companies really focus on developing domestic resources to reduce our reliance on external, offshore suppliers for critical elements like lithium. With incredible government and project partner support, we are excited as Project Lonestar takes shape.”

About EnergyX

Founded in 2018, EnergyX is focused on providing efficient, sustainable solutions to challenges facing global lithium supply chains. From the raw battery materials extraction process to refining, and the manufacturing of next generation batteries, EnergyX is innovating from lithium brine to battery. The company has filed nearly 100  patents to date, and is developing its proprietary LiTAS™ suite of DLE technologies to respond to the challenges faced by lithium producers, including energy efficiency, water conservation, extraction time, and sustainability.

News courtesy of EnergyX

 

A thought on some critical as to surface owners in Lithium trend

Aside from some recent comments from another DLE company on "DLE unit size", no company has really laid out what the surface footprint and impact may be for these operations.

Traditional thinking for surface and mineral owners in this area are tied to O&G wells - smaller and more finite units tied to individual wells and production.

The "new" DLE approach is drastically different - and I think that these differences will impact the public's acceptance and desire to lease to and work with DLE entities.

Large units (6500 acres / 10 square miles), how many source wells. And pipelines moving water to and from DLE unit. And disposal wells. And injection facilities.

What is the impact of all this on the overall pristine countryside of NE Texas???

Then there is the financial payout to those who lease to DLE groups.

HUGE units - which massively dilute financial impact.

  • e.g. 100-acre lease is only 1.54% of a 6500-acre DLE unit

And an equal percentage of any lithium revenues / royalty

I am thinking that once people really understand these issues, the desire to pursue lithium revenues from the landowner standpoint may wane severely

Large footprint lithium drilling units make it imperative that Texas does not impose low royalty terms similar to what Arkansas has currently for bromine.  The Arkansas O&G Commission has not scheduled another hearing on the lithium royalty question but will likely have to do so at some time in the future.  Liz Swaine at the Shreveport-Bossier Advocate has interviewed Dr. Burba and is attempting to set up an interview with the new IBAT CEO.  I'm looking forward to the article on those interviews for hints as to how smaller O&G operators may get in the lithium game on a well by well basis.  That may end up being a better deal for land/mineral owners. 

And anyone that does consider signing a lease for brine needs to have some professional assistance in reviewing and negotiating the contract.  Surface rights are likely to have significant value so don't give them away for nothing.  Also environmental concerns should be addressed especially for hydrogen sulfide (H2S) which is highly poisonous.  Brine spills can contaminate lands and damage streams.  Producing lithium using DLE is the most environmentally friendly means of doing so but it is not without its dangers.

All good points. I am remiss for not addressing H2S issues (the smell from these waters will be extreme). Plus that component adds to corrosion risk for surface equipment. And spill / leak probabilities.

Environmental impact - once recognized - will result in a LOT of protesting.

My gut is telling me that landowners in NE Texas will end up rejecting this due to these previously discussed issues. 

They just don't the fact yet - someone should tell them instead of holding this info back

Is a low-key company a game changer for lithium in Louisiana and beyond?

BY LIZ SWAINE | Staff writer  Jun 28, 2024 www.shreveportbossieradvocate.com

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

The world's largest producer of lithium and a player in the north Louisiana/Arkansas Smackover Formation says that current lithium prices — which have fallen to a low not seen since 2021 — are "unsustainable" and cannot support spending on new plants, Bloomberg reported this week.

Officials with Albemarle Corp., which has a plant in Magnolia, Arkansas that is focused on the lithium play, made the comments at an industry conference in Las Vegas. But though current prices are down, Albemarle CEO Kent Masters said that long term growth for the "limited supply" of lithium — used in batteries that power the growing electric vehicle market worldwide

The timing of lower lithium prices and concern over the costs of traditional lithium plants could be a jump start for International Battery Metals, or IBAT, based in Houston, Texas.

Physical chemist Dr. John Burba is the founder and chief technology officer for IBAT. His life has been a study of how and why chemical reactions work, and his focus for 40 years has been on lithium and salt water brine — a drilling by product that contains minerals and other far more environmentally hazardous contaminants such as salts, oil, and drilling injection water. Lithium has been found in quantity in Arkansas and Texas, and the same geological formation — called Smackover — extends into north Louisiana. Mineral consultant Skip Peel tells The Shreveport-Bossier City Advocate that the brine in the north Louisiana Smackover is not only caustic but also contains dangerous hydrogen sulfide.

It is somewhat ironic that lithium, now one of the world's most highly sought after minerals, is now being found in brine, a product once considered mostly worthless that is generally injected back into the ground to make it "go away."

For the past several months, Dr. Burba has been on and off in Salt Lake City, Utah at US Magnesium with 35 trucks driven from The Shaw Group's fabrication yard in Lake Charles. The Shaw Group and Burner Fire Control in Lafayette built a prototype that IBAT is now testing in Utah, a prototype that changes almost everything about the type of facility needed to extract lithium as well as the way it is extracted.

With all the competing press releases dropping on a weekly basis about "New!" "Better!" "Best!" lithium technology, being heard above that fray is a challenge. "We're a startup company, we're small, our balance sheet is pretty skimpy. It's new, and you get this 'How do I know this is really going to work?' I think what we're demonstrating with US Magnesium is going to be a giant lift for us." Burba believes it is the proverbial better mousetrap.

Direct Lithium Extraction — or DLE — is not new or unique. It's the process of capturing lithium ions and separating those ions from the other — often nasty and dangerous stuff — they are in. Because brine is so toxic and so corrosive, the plants that distill the lithium are built near the source of the brine so it will not have to be transported. Remember that brine is so highly corrosive it is normally kept out of trucks and pipelines.

IBAT has developed a modular, transportable plant that can be set up on under two acres of stable soil, with no concrete foundations or dozens of construction workers or days off for bad weather. "A traditional plant will typically take 4 to 6 years to build," Burba said. "We built this plant in 10 months. If you roll engineering and procurement into it, you're probably 16 to 18 months, all in. Once we're really locked down on all our basic engineering, it will be less than a year. That is a huge time to market advantage."

The plant at US Magnesium took a couple of months to set up. "Now we're in testing, we've commissioned it and are just entering startup. I'm anticipating it going full out in another 4 to 6 weeks. From the time we set the equipment down to having it up and operational was less than 6 months." Burba said the transportable plant is a fraction of the price of a traditional plant, and it can be moved afterward.

Next comes the Direct Lithium Extraction, and IBAT's patented processes. This is where it gets complicated and Burba's inner physical chemist professor comes out. The process is an absorption system "that uses a crystalline material that has very tiny holes within the structure of the compound and lithium can go into the holes — when you wash it in the water, it comes out in the water," Burba said. Lithium, which is the smallest metal ion in the periodic table, is the only thing that will fit in the holes.

Burba touts two big benefits to the IBAT process. First is that no acid-based chemicals or solvents of any kind must be used. Second is that very little water is used. Of the water that is used, Burba says roughly 98% is recycled to use again. "When the water goes through the system it is clean water like drinking water and the solution that comes out is this high concentration lithium chloride solution with some impurities. The water is just recycled right back into our loop. We'll get about 10% to 14% lithium chloride solution. We would use a small evaporator to get the water out of it, boost it up to about 36% for shipment and then condense that water."

More traditional modes of lithium extraction — hard rock mining and evaporative mining — use "astronomical" amounts of water, and the water that is left over, Burba said, is filled with contaminants.

A transportable plant would be especially beneficial for the large fields in the Smackover formation in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas, said Burba, because it would negate the need to construct expensive pipelines to handle the brine. Because of the lower cost of the facility, lithium in the 200 to 350 parts per million range could make a good return on the investment, versus the 600 ppm more traditional companies are seeking.

What about required permits? Like the lithium royalty structure, they are still unknown. However, Burba confirms a discussion in Texas was very hopeful. "We've been talking to several different groups interested in working with us. Because we are not putting foundations in, we're not burying pipe, it's all transportable, the Railroad Commission in Texas has indicated that it's essentially the same thing as drilling equipment. It's kind of a non-event."

Burba said  the numbers from US Magnesium should be coming in over the next two to three months. "Once we're through startup phase, and it's run for a reasonable amount of time, we'll start waving the victory flags."

I wish there was a “like” button!!! I hope Franklin County is still in discussions!

Franklin County (or at least parts of it) are in the theoretical trend for lithium extraction - but initial success will first be needed in Cass County to "prove" up the trend and extraction concept and economics.

As is the case in the oil field, it is a major waiting game to see things happen.

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