Evolving Energy Landscape
Exxon Mobil, the oil giant, is engaging in discussions with leading automakers such as Tesla, Ford, and Volkswagen about supplying lithium for electric vehicle (EV) batteries, Bloomberg Law reported. The potential deal, which also involves Samsung and SK On Co, would represent a significant shift for Exxon as it explores new energy markets.
Early Stage Talks
Despite the ongoing negotiations, these talks are in their nascent stages, mainly because Exxon lacks current capabilities to produce the essential battery metal, lithium. Both Tesla and Ford did not respond to Reuters for comment, and Exxon has declined to comment on the matter.
Exxon's Lithium Investments
Last month, Reuters highlighted that Exxon entered a partnership with Tetra Technologies to explore lithium-rich brine across over 6,100 acres in Arkansas. This move followed Exxon's earlier acquisition of more than 100,000 acres in the same state from Galvanic Energy, a private company.
Technical Challenges in Lithium Extraction
To successfully extract lithium from these brines, Exxon would need to employ a direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology. However, this is a hurdle as the oil company has not yet chosen any DLE technology. Moreover, no DLE technology has been commercially viable till now, setting a challenging race among companies to become the first to do so.
Talks with International Battery Metals
Exxon has also held discussions with International Battery Metals regarding licensing DLE technology, as reported by Reuters last month. This forms part of Exxon's broader strategy in the lithium sector, reflecting the increasing interest of traditional energy companies in emerging technologies.
The Future of Lithium
The surge in Exxon's investment in the lithium sector indicates the growing demand for this ultralight metal, driven by the rise of EVs and other advanced technologies. It remains to be seen how Exxon's strategic move into the lithium market will reshape the energy landscape.