LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas is set to become a major site for energy production as Exxon Mobil Corporation announced Monday that it would begin drilling its first lithium well in southwest Arkansas this month.
The well will be on a 120,000-acre range where the company has acquired mineral rights as part of its plan to become a leading lithium producer.
The announcement was made at the state capitol, as Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders joined state officials and Exxon Mobil representatives.
The drilling will take advantage of the southwest Arkansas Smackover brine formation deposits near Magnolia in Columbia County. Exxon Mobil calls this “one of the most prolific lithium resources of its type in North America.”
Brine will be extracted through what a company representative called a low-impact method of direct lithium extraction, or DLE. The process will draw the lithium from the brine deposits extracted roughly 10,000 feet underground, then converted to battery-grade lithium on-site as the remaining brine is injected back underground.
President of Exxon Mobil Low Carbon Solutions Dan Ammann said the Arkansas location has advantages.
“Lithium is essential to the energy transition, and Exxon Mobil has a leading role to play in paving the way for electrification,” he said. “This landmark project applies decades of Exxon Mobil expertise to unlock vast supplies of North American lithium with far fewer environmental impacts than traditional mining operations.”
The governor said the lithium production fits in with the existing energy production in south Arkansas.
“South Arkansas is our state’s all-around energy capital, producing oil, natural gas, and now thanks to investments like Exxon Mobil’s and their combination of skills and scale, lithium,” she said.
The governor also pointed out that lithium production would produce high-paying jobs in the state.
There were no specifics given by the company or state officials regarding any new jobs or further investment in building new facilities as part of this effort during the Monday news conference. Sanders did state, however, that the project’s long-term impact could run into “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Lithium is the major component in lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles and other devices. Exxon Mobil states it plans to begin lithium production in 2027 under the Mobil Lithium brand.
Arkansas lawmakers reacted positively to the announcement.
Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton both issued statements about the positive impact of lithium mining on state coffers. Cotton added it would also reduce dependence on China-produced lithium.
Representatives Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman also spoke to the economic impact of Exxon Mobil’s plans and the positive economic impact the long-term investment in lithium production would have on the state. Rep. French Hill joined them in speaking to the blessing of the Natural State having a resource like lithium.