Oil Firms Explore Potential of Lithium

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A growing number of oil companies are making forays into the lithium space, but it's hard to discern how serious these exploratory moves are and whether lithium could become a real transition business for Big Oil. Exxon Mobil has become the biggest oil company so far to be linked with lithium, having reportedly lined up acreage in Arkansas specifically for extraction of the mineral used in rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles (EVs). While the idea of oil firms entering lithium has often been viewed as an acceptance that cars will one day no longer run on their oil products at all, lithium looks a logical fit for some as they operate today. An emerging technology known as direct lithium extraction (DLE) will, in theory, allow them to filter lithium from brine water they already extract alongside oil and gas and provide a much faster route to battery-ready lithium. “They are serious about trying to leverage their existing skill set in lithium, but getting working DLE is the key,” said one source familiar with the intentions of Exxon, which is remaining tight-lipped on the matter. Fellow US oil firm Occidental had a head start, having formed a subsidiary called TerraLithium in 2019 that leverages its "experience in managing and processing brine in its oil and gas and chemicals business," according to a company spokesman. Chevron, too, is said to be interested in evaluating lithium as a business with “adjacencies” to its core competencies. Pioneer Natural Resources is in a similar initial conceptual evaluation stage.

Emerging Technologies, Electric Vehicles, Corporate Strategy
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