US energy giant Exxon Mobil plans to start producing lithium by 2027 in Arkansas.
The move comes amid growing demand for the metal used in electric vehicle batteries – which also brings with it a number of emerging risks which underwriters, particularly on the marine cargo side, are still assessing.
Exxon’s expansion into the sector also comes as emerging technologies aim to boost global production of the ultralight metal by filtering it from salty brine deposits found across the globe and supplying it to battery makers eager for fresh sources.
The company had acquired the rights to 120,000 gross acres of the Smackover formation in southern Arkansas earlier this year.
Exxon, which invented the rechargeable lithium-ion battery in the 1970s, but stepped away from the technology, said the product offer will be branded as Mobil Lithium.
Exxon said it would use conventional oil and gas drilling methods to access lithium-rich saltwater from reservoirs about 10,000 feet underground and then use direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology to separate lithium from the saltwater.
The company has also been testing unproven DLE technology that will be crucial for commercial operations, according to reports.