Home » ExxonMobil: Screw It, We’ll ‘Drill’ For Lithium In Arkansas

ExxonMobil: Screw It, We’ll ‘Drill’ For Lithium In Arkansas

Tmd Drilling Lithium Ts
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When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail. When all you have is a drill, well, let’s just say I’m not surprised at ExxonMobil’s announcement that it plans to drill for lithium in Arkansas. It’s an easy joke to make, but before you roll your eyes I’d like to point out that it was an ExxonMobil scientist who basically invented the lithium-ion rechargeable battery in pretty much every non-Changli electric car out there.

While Exxon using a “drill, baby drill” technique to extract lithium from the ground may not surprise you, the fact that Ford’s Louisville plant voted against the tentative UAW deal might. What’s going on here?

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

It’s already mid-November and we’ve got at least one more Q3 financial report to look at and it’s Fisker. Would you be surprised to hear that it’s not great? Ok, good, because it’s not great. What might be great is the slight dip in new car transaction prices. I gotta flight to catch, so let’s get this Morning Dump squeezed out.

Drill, Baby, Drill… For Lithium?

Screen Shot 2023 11 14 At 7.12.46 Am
Image: Exxonmobil

Growing up in Houston, it seemed like everyone I knew was either actively working in the energy sector, had worked in the energy sector, or was trying to get a job in the energy sector. Companies like Shell, Enron, Schlumberger, Halliburton. My dad, at one point, sold explosion-proof boxes used for undersea applications.

There wasn’t a lot of talk of batteries, even though an Exxon scientist named Dr. M. Stanley Whittingham actually came up with the technology in the 1970s (and was awarded a Nobel Prize for it a few years ago).

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These days, BP is ordering Tesla superchargers and good old ExxonMobile is going to drill for lithium in Arkansas. “How do you drill for Lithium?” you might ask. I’ll let the company explain:

After using conventional oil and gas drilling methods to access lithium-rich saltwater from reservoirs about 10,000 feet underground, ExxonMobil will utilize direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology to separate lithium from the saltwater. The lithium will then be converted onsite to battery-grade material. The remaining saltwater will be re-injected into the underground reservoirs. The DLE process produces fewer carbon emissions than hard rock mining and requires significantly less land.

I remember when fracking was allegedly going to be a more environmentally friendly way to get oil, so I’m definitely in the wait-and-see camp here, but this does seem to work without requiring the massive brine pools that are utilized by more traditional methods. So that’s something.

The guy in charge of all of this is actually Dan Ammann, the Kiwi businessman who came in as treasurer after the GM bankruptcy and worked his way up to becoming CEO of Cruise (a job he’s probably happy he doesn’t have anymore).

Here’s his pitch:

“This project is a win-win-win,” Ammann added. “It’s a perfect example of how ExxonMobil can enhance North American energy security, expand supplies of a critical industrial material, and enable the continued reduction of emissions associated with transportation, which is essential to meeting society’s net-zero goals.”

More domestic lithium production is good. More environmentally sustainable lithium production is also good. If ExxonMobile can use its traditional skill set to meet its goal of producing enough lithium to power a million batteries then that’s good news. Just think of it as that movie “The Cutting Edge” and ExxonMobile is the hockey player, and… the environment is Moira Kelly I guess?

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UAW Voters, Like Actual Voters, Don’t Show Up

You might be alarmed to see headlines about large GM and Ford plants voting against the hard-fought tentative deals. What’s going on here? Most likely, this is a case of labor voters acting like all other voters.

Here’s a great quote from local Kentucky CBS affiliate WKLY on the narrow failure of the deal at the local Ford plant:

UAW Local 862 president Todd Dunn believes the historic nature of the contract may have played a role in the low turnout.

“I heard more, ‘Man, this is so good a contract. I’m not worried about it. It’s going to pass.’ There was a lot of members that just felt comfortable and relaxed and just didn’t come out and vote,” Dunn said.

That does seem to be what’s likely going on here and, historically, the Kentucky plant has voted against many of the UAW’s contracts. For all the vigor of the strike, old habits die hard. Most people expect the deal to still pass easily nationwide.

Fisker is… Eh… Fiskering

Screen Shot 2023 11 14 At 7.09.06 Am

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I’m hoping that Fisker does get to build all the cars that it wants to build because it has some interesting ideas. First, it has to figure out how to build cars at all.

Here’s a pretty brutal opening from Automotive News today on the company’s problems:

Fisker Inc. slashed its 2023 production forecast in a downbeat third-quarter earnings report, as the electric vehicle startup struggled to deliver its recently launched Ocean crossover to customers due to logistics failures.

The California-based automaker now estimates production at between 13,000 and 17,000 vehicles this year from 20,000 to 23,000 previously.

“We have not been able to follow through with deliveries fast enough,” CEO Henrik Fisker said on the earnings call Monday. “People have paid and are waiting for their cars, and some of them are getting really annoyed.”

Yikes.

Average Transaction Price Drops Again, Slowly

Screen Shot 2023 11 14 At 7.11.48 Am
Image: Autotrader

The ATP (Average Transaction Price) of new cars has dropped again according to Cox Automotive, reaching $47,936.

Only three vehicle segments had average transaction prices below $30,000 in October – compact cars, subcompact cars and subcompact SUVs/crossovers – and, as noted in earlier reports, the number of new vehicles transacting on average below $20,000 remains at two, the Kia Rio and Mitsubishi Mirage. Both vehicles will be discontinued in the coming years.

So, yeah, not great news, but not terrible news.

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The Big Question

Can ExxonMobile make this work? Is this greenwashing or is this real?

 

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Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
7 months ago

> Can ExxonMobile make this work? Is this greenwashing or is this real?

Yes, yes, and yes, respectively. Never count out an old, rich, entrenched evil corporation.

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
7 months ago

Could Exxon make this work? Sure. A large percentage of the lithium produced in the world comes from brines. In fact, both Utah’s Great Salt Lake/Bonneville flats and California’s Salton Sea could be major producers of lithium. And Australia, Chile and China also rely on concentrated brine sources for lithium production (https://www.utahbusiness.com/lithium-mining-in-utah-is-a-big-deal/, https://www.cnbc.com/2022/05/04/the-salton-sea-could-produce-the-worlds-greenest-lithium.html). All US-produced magnesium metal already comes from the Great Salt Lake, so the mechanisms and processes needed are already available.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
7 months ago

Can ExxonMobile make this work?”

I don’t see why not.

“Is this greenwashing or is this real?”

Maybe there is greenwashing involved. But it is change in the direction needed, so I’ll take it even if greenwashing is involved.

JDE
JDE
7 months ago

Guess we shall see, it seems odd that Fracking or shale oil processing could not have also used a storage system like this over retention ponds. but I digress.

Saul Goodman
Saul Goodman
7 months ago

While my quarter of a million mile 350z does the transportation trick for me, it’s important new and (relatively) cheap (aka below 20 grand) cars are available, especially for people who don’t want/can’t do maintenance. Sad that the new cheap and cheerful cars are basically non existent.

Farty McSprinkles
Farty McSprinkles
7 months ago

The same people who protest fossil fuel, protest mines (or wells in this instance) for the minerals required for battery technology. They protest coal, but also protest nuclear and natural gas production which are objectively far cleaner than coal. The cleanest energy in the world is hydroelectric, but no one wants to dam rivers and streams. Wind power is clean, but they protest because the turbines kill birds. Everything has a trade off and we have to be willing to accept and embrace imperfect solutions that are practical and offer an improvement over the current situation if there is any hope of progress.

Bob Boxbody
Bob Boxbody
7 months ago

People who complain about something, but then complain about every idea to mitigate that thing, may only be in it for the complaining.

AC2DE
AC2DE
7 months ago
Reply to  Bob Boxbody

Sounds like fun! [Proceeds to complain about people complaining…]

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
7 months ago

I feel like lithium supply will scale up just in time for sodium batteries to become a viable much cheaper alternative, cause that’s just how life goes.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
7 months ago
Reply to  Fuzzyweis

Sodium batteries aren’t going to replace Lithium-based batteries. They’ll complement them. If anything, the Sodium batteries will likely replace lead-acid.
https://batteryuniversity.com/article/bu-212-future-batteries

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
7 months ago

This is good Autopian. Go down to the comments and a civil discussion is happening. You all rock, everyone!

Church
Church
7 months ago

Agreed. But of course this is to be expected because we are the higher class, discerning reader. Everyone knows that each membership includes a monocle and top hat.

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
7 months ago
Reply to  Church

Hey – you aren’t supposed to let the plebs know about that! The first rule of monocle and top hat club is don’t talk about monocle and top hat club!

AC2DE
AC2DE
7 months ago
Reply to  Church

That explains the suspicious package from North Carolina…

Last edited 7 months ago by AC2DE
Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
7 months ago

WELL NOW YOU JINXED IT!!!

Seth Albaum
Seth Albaum
7 months ago

By the time it’s operational, someone is going to have a better battery not requiring lithium. Then, the local pols will cry “lost jobs” and the new and improved technology will be delayed and/or prohibitively expensive.

/cynical mode

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
7 months ago

I would trust Exxon’s devotion to environmental responsibility about as much as I would trust Donald Trump’s tax return. Exxon gives absolutely zero shits about you or anyone who happens to live in the watershed of whatever Lithium drill they build. Because when all the kids develop rare cancer, they look around and say “Alright, I’m going to head out”. And it’s the taxpayers superfund now.

Here is the Great State of Maine, turns out we’ve been sitting on a whole load of lithium for millions of years. So these guys are sniffing around all 16 counties. And what a bunch of fucking crooks. Promising they will filter the water used to better than safe drinking level and return to the land to better quality than before. Like sure dude, you’re about to do some shit that’s never been done in the history of mining before. And I get that are main industry is a crustacean that prefers the waters of New Brunswick now thanks to the heating of the Gulf. And being background characters to Bush Family vacations. But, it’s such a short term gold rush gain. It’s just selling out to some Texan mega corp. Would it be nice to have some decent jobs in the western mountains for a bit, sure. But being able to drink the water is pretty rad. Collectively, as of now, we’ve told them to get lost. But, we’ll see how long the Fed lets us maintain independence. If we get a Republican administration, they’ll probably force me to have a mine in my backyard.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
7 months ago

Not sure what you mean by “it’s the taxpayers superfund now” when most of the money in the Superfund trust consists of taxes on petroleum and chemical industries. And the trust is used when the EPA cannot get the potentially responsible parties (e.g., like everyone who ever owned any of the land that is designated as a Superfund site) to pony up in a timely manner.
Also, you will not have a mine in your backyard if the company drills for it, which is significantly less disruptive to the land than a mine.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t be concerned. But keeping the arguments grounded in facts is important (unless you’re a Republican 😐 ).

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
7 months ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

Go make a tour of Pennsylvania’s Northern Tier counties. Go look at a few fracking sites. Try to hear around an active one as they’re flaring off gas. And the truck traffic was insane during the height of it. Groundwater pollution, air pollution, noise pollution. Mountaintop drilling can be heard a long way off.

Based on that lived experience of touring northern PA during the height of the fracking boom I’m also very skeptical about XOM being a good steward of the land.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
7 months ago

I lived in North Dakota during the early 2000s oil boom. I know what it’s like. I appreciate your comment and don’t disagree with any of it, but I don’t know what it has to do with my comment.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
7 months ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

Thanks for the clarification!

My point was that a well is still quite disruptive to residents of rural areas. PA has quite a few rural residents since it’s a larger state and has been settled for hundreds of years. I don’t know if western Maine is similar. Although that’s beautiful country.

What a dilemma. Kill ourselves with carbon dioxide poisoning or wreck some more really scenic areas to not kill ourselves.

JDE
JDE
7 months ago

There is of course still the Carbonation processing facility resulting in Soda and Ash, but the big thing about fracking is also the big thing about current Lithium mining and that is scorched earth from contaminated retention ponds.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
7 months ago

Sorry– my initial comment was to clarify two points but I realize it came off very dismissive of the overall concerns. My experience was in ND where there’s not much scenery to wreck or humans to poison. And it was still really disheartening how damaging the industry was to land owners (as opposed to mineral owners who got rich as helllll). The shale is also several thousand feet deep in ND– I understand it is much shallower in PA which probably greatly increases the likelihood of groundwater contamination.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
7 months ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

No worries.

The issue was shallower wells, companies skimping on the casing and there being far more little pockets than expected. It ended up with some people being able to light their tap water on fire from the trapped gas. The water in previously potable wells wasn’t good anymore, obviously. Some people got bought out to move or the state made the companies truck in potable water.

Headfullofair
Headfullofair
7 months ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

Congress let the superfund excise tax expire in the 90s and the “superfund” has been empty since 2003. So the “polluter pays” system you’re describing hasn’t existed in two decades.

But you’re right that taxpayers probably aren’t on the hook. Exxon is doing the mining themselves, which means they’ll be the responsible party. This is a much better outcome than a lot of mining, where layers of shell companies, structured bankruptcies, and lax oversight of bonding let companies walk away from “orphan” sites that are massive messes.

That said, Exxon will get out of paying for some of this cleanup, but it will be through good old fashioned corruption and regulatory capture.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
7 months ago
Reply to  Headfullofair

20 years, holy fuck I am old. This is like when I say something like, “Jurassic Park has great special effects for being 10-years-old!”

DadBod
DadBod
7 months ago

I live in Maine too and have mixed feelings on the lithium deposit. A domestic supply of lithium is a good idea. The extraction is supposedly no more complicated than a granite quarry, a thing that exists all over Maine. The processing would be done in another facility.
This all sounds reasonable to me, but I share your deep skepticism that any mining company would give a shit about the environment or the health of the locals.

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
7 months ago
Reply to  DadBod

Yeah, I have a bunch of doubts about it being equal to a granite quarry. Maybe if we had a billion dollar granite deposit in one place. Most of those operations are just a handful of a dudes strip mining some other dude’s backyard. But letting this Freeman guy and his gem museum sell an entire mountain in Newry to some Florida shell company partially owned by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund is a bit of different ballgame.

DadBod
DadBod
7 months ago

Yeah I don’t know why I cling to hope on this one. All signs point to greed.

Ben
Ben
7 months ago

Around here there’s a fairly famous natural area that is protected because it’s basically been untouched by human activity. Some mining company wanted to start an operation right on the edge of it and claimed that they had processes to ensure no pollution would occur outside the boundaries of the dig site.

If you do a little research, you discover that their techniques have been used before with approximately a 0% success rate. They all eventually dump toxic shit into the surrounding environment.

Mining companies have a well-deserved reputation for being horrible stewards of the environment. An oil company that becomes a mining company is like a supervillain teamup in a Marvel movie.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
7 months ago

Ever notice how, whenever there’s a buck to be made, powerful people and companies start babbling about “vast, untapped resources” that can be exploited? Think human beings (slaves), land, timber, coal, oil, the oceans, nuclear energy, and so on. Heck they’re even pointing to the Moon and Mars (I see you Musk, emperor of Mars). Did any of these miraculous exploitations occur without serious consequences to people, animals and the planet? Do we ever learn our lessons? Any such pronouncements by any commercial enterprise must be taken with an ocean load of salt. It will happen whether there are dire predictions or not because lobbying dollars make law in this country, so the best we can hope for is to proceed with caution. Gotta say, on the cosmic balance scale, greed always seems heavier than caution.

Nvoid82
Nvoid82
7 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Coincidentally, an ocean’s worth of salt would solve all of the lithium mining issues

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
7 months ago
Reply to  Nvoid82

That is funny.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
7 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I fully support Musk colonizing Mars…

…as long as he moves there.

...getstoneyII
...getstoneyII
7 months ago

Also, this just came out re: the UAW contract. Appears to be a no go in Spring Hill and Flint for GM as well…

https://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/2023/11/14/uaw-members-at-gm-spring-hill-plant-turn-down-contract/71577788007/

MrAcoustics
MrAcoustics
7 months ago
Reply to  ...getstoneyII

The GM vote is definitely the most interesting. I think Ford and Stellantis have enough overall Yes votes that it will likely pass (anything could happen), but GM tallies so far are really close to the 50% split of pass or fail.

Fox Detroit have active sheets showing the results from the locations at the 3 automakers
https://www.fox2detroit.com/news/uaw-ratification-vote-ongoing-track-voting-totals-on-detroit-3-contract-offers-here

...getstoneyII
...getstoneyII
7 months ago
Reply to  MrAcoustics

Thanks for the heads up, very interesting to see the breakdowns. Pontiac Stamping (GM) results are wild.

This is the type of coverage I’d try to explain when I lived in NY to the locals. Like, “You know how you guys have a gossip section in your papers every day? There is a whole section just for cars in Detroit.” They’d almost always respond with, “Every day?”. lol

Brian Ash
Brian Ash
7 months ago
Reply to  ...getstoneyII

What I haven’t seen mentioned on any of the plants that voted no, why did they vote no? For most of the plants that voted no, it was the production workers who were against it. Many of the production workers could of been temps or those not grandfathered into the pension, is that the reason. For most of the other plants it passed easily with the skilled workers more for it, but they are only about 20% of the members. Not sure I am buying the people didn’t vote and that’s the main reason, they were on strike and this contract is so important, but nobody made sure people voted, doesn’t make sense. Perhaps the support for the contract and Fain is not as solid as his grandstanding would of suggested.

...getstoneyII
...getstoneyII
7 months ago
Reply to  Brian Ash

Yeah, I’m not involved in any of the locals so it’d be hard to accurately speculate on which ones of the many reasons why each local/plant did or didn’t like it. I can say that almost universally across the board on a macro scale is that the members were/are really concerned about retirement healthcare, which wasn’t really addressed or changed for the better. In fact, the retirees overall didn’t really get all that much at the end of the negotiations, so I’d imagine that factored in somehow.

Brian Ash
Brian Ash
7 months ago
Reply to  ...getstoneyII

Spring hill and flint had about 60% turnout, but the SH vote was so against even if everyone who did not vote had voted yes it would maybe barely pass. If GM’s largest plant is so against it, then there’s something wrong. How is there no news on why, media is always so surface level, they just point to the overall pay increases and 4 day week.

If all 3 don’t approve its really bad for Fain. Imagine Ford & FCA approve, what are the chances he could get more from GM and if he did the other 2 are gonna be pissed.

...getstoneyII
...getstoneyII
7 months ago
Reply to  Brian Ash

The 32-hour work week was nothing more than a negotiating tactic and everyone who has ever been involved in a Big 3 union negotiation before knows this.

The Detroit papers will talk to the workers in due time and will do very deep dives on the ramifications of the outcome. Locals are still voting, after all.

Nvoid82
Nvoid82
7 months ago

Lithium fun fact, one of the other people responsible for it was named John B Goodenough.

Things like modern batteries being made possible by someone called Dr. Goodenough makes me think time travel might be possible.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
7 months ago
Reply to  Nvoid82

I’m disappointed in Matt not mentioning Dr. Goodenough since I believe Matt is a TexasEx and Dr. Goodenough was a professor there from 1986 up until his death in July of this year at 100 years old!

V10omous
V10omous
7 months ago

I remember when fracking was allegedly going to be a more environmentally friendly way to get oil

It doesn’t seem like fracking is much worse, on net, than conventional drilling.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/06/210625173152.htm

The geopolitical advantages of domestic crude oil production probably outweigh the small environmental impacts. The same will be true of lithium. If we don’t mine it, bad countries will and it’s easier to regulate environmental laws than to force China or Russia to sell us vital materials if they don’t want to.

Last edited 7 months ago by V10omous
DadBod
DadBod
7 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

I read that fracking never broke even and would have been nonviable without massive (losing) investment from private equity.
for example: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/aug/30/how-the-us-fracking-boom-almost-fell-apart

V10omous
V10omous
7 months ago
Reply to  DadBod

I can’t speak to that 5 year old article, but some 2/3 of US (record high) oil production in 2022 was from shale.

https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=847&t=6#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20Energy%20Information%20Administration,crude%20oil%20production%20in%202022.

I’m not totally sure if “oil from shale” is exactly equal to “oil from fracking” but I know they are correlated.

Just like anything in oil, fracking will go through its boom/bust cycles.

DadBod
DadBod
7 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

Thanks for the link! My impressions were from shit I read a while ago. Frankly I thought fracking was abandoned, what the fuck do I know.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
7 months ago
Reply to  DadBod

Fracking is more expensive than conventional drilling. The wells are periodically “abandoned” when the price per barrel is too low, and they are embraced again when prices shoot up.

RC
RC
7 months ago
Reply to  DadBod

The Grauniad needs to hire some better accountants and fact-checkers, because Chesapeake Energy (the key player in that story) is in fact publicly traded.

PE can invest in publicly traded companies, of course, and PE companies are often themselves publicly traded (like the Carlyle Group), but the Grauniad essentially takes McClendon – who committed all sorts of fraud on his way to his demise – and make him the embodiment of the US fracking industry, which isn’t quite reality.

Moreover, for all forms of energy extraction, you need a lot of capital. Whether it’s the wildcat operations that actually find the wells or the extraction companies, every well is going to have a calculated cost-per-barrel-extracted that amortizes the capital expenditure and guides which wells are turned on and off as market conditions (including regulatory environment, demand, and so forth) change. Certainly various elements of the fracking ecosystem go in and out of business (IE, when cost per barrel is high, the wildcats struggle to find business, as it’s easier for existing extraction operations to turn up again rather than trying to find new sites with a lower extraction cost), but to argue that the whole thing is losing money is laughably wrong.

DadBod
DadBod
7 months ago
Reply to  RC

That makes sense, but that Grauniad (?) article is just one example of reporting on fracking that questions whether the whole thing is more trouble than it’s worth if you remove the finance shenanigans. Of course it’s making money for someone, but I just wonder if the money comes from a barrel of oil or a barrel of bullshit.

RC
RC
7 months ago
Reply to  DadBod

Misspelling intentionally, as the Guardian often gets things about US culture and finances gloriously wrong. That particular article comes from “Saudi America”, a book which – to put it kindly – stakes out a particular narrative and rolls with it.

American accounting, particularly for publicly traded companies, is not well understood by many, even many that purport to know (looking at, particularly, politicians and journalists).It’s fairly common to hear journalists and politicos discuss things like “special exemptions for the oil and gas industry” when talking about how depreciation is calculated, for example, and in the West it’s very common to hear about fracking in the context of BLM, SITLA (in Utah, other states have equivalent state agencies), and public land use and theoretical opportunity cost state and federal governments are exposed to, which is often in turn mislabeled a subsidy (as in,” The federal government could make an incremental $500,000 in fee-based revenue by way of tourism, grazing, or other land use from this BLM land that is instead being leased to an oil company, and therefore the oil and gas companies are being subsidized to the tune of 500k”).

And don’t get me wrong, there can and should be vibrant policy discussions about accounting, land use, and possible ecological impact, but they’re buried under several layers of BS by all the actors involved. More to the point, though, these operations do make money – people need oil and gas, after all – though the underlying accounting is rather convoluted.

V10omous
V10omous
7 months ago
Reply to  RC

A deep dive on what the oft-discussed (and oft-bemoaned) “oil subsidies” or “tax breaks” actually entail might be the best possible thing I could read here (or anywhere).

DadBod
DadBod
7 months ago
Reply to  RC

Awesome, thanks for the insight.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
7 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

“If we don’t mine it, bad countries will and it’s easier to regulate environmental laws than to force China or Russia to sell us vital materials if they don’t want to.”

What makes you think they won’t mine it anyway? They may not sell to us but that doesn’t mean they won’t sell to others.

V10omous
V10omous
7 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Of course they will, but I’d rather our domestic supply not be subject to the whims of dictators that wish us ill.

Covid shortages and Russian aggression made shortening supply chains take on a new visibility and importance to people. That should continue IMO.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
7 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

In a perfect world maybe. Historically we’ve done plenty of business with the worst, most oppressive regimes, many of which we ourselves had a hand in creating by overthrowing inconvenient democratically elected governments and putting in a despot who was willing to do whatever horrible things needed doing in the interests of American business. Saddam Hussain was our man as was Pinochet in Chilie, Noriega in Panama, the Shah of Iran, Suharto in Indonesia and others. We also trained and armed Osama Bin Laden and the future Taliban…oops!

So I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

V10omous
V10omous
7 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

To be clear, my opposition is not simply philosophical in this case, although I’m no fan of autocracy.

It’s primarily national security.

If things get hot over Taiwan for example, I’d rather not have a critical commodity entirely in the hands of a rival power we are now shooting at. As with Russian and Iranian sanctions, our position is much improved if we are the ones doing the squeezing, rather than the ones being squeezed.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
7 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

“As with Russian and Iranian sanctions, our position is much improved if we are the ones doing the squeezing, rather than the ones being squeezed.”

For what are we doing the squeezing? Democracy? Freedom? It’s pretty clear from the examples I highlighted that our interest in making the world safe for democracy and non commercial freedom is an afterthought at best to making it safe for commercial interests to the point we will happily crush democracy and freedoms if it gets in the way of doing business.

Maybe it’d be better if nobody was squeezing at all.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
7 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

From a land use perspective, fracking is better than conventional drilling. Directional drilling can suck up the oil from thousands of hectares from a single (albeit large) drilling site. It’s a city versus a suburb.
I agree with your comments on China and Russia, and I will add that these are also massive national security issues.

...getstoneyII
...getstoneyII
7 months ago

Jeeze. Greenwashing, sportswashing, dog washing stations…it’s all so exhausting with this paralysis by analysis. Shit, I digressed…

Exxon has obviously figured out a way to make it profitable, so go for it. Shoot first and ask questions later seems to be the mantra of Governments around the (First) World nations regarding expedited battery reliance, so why should the private sector do differently?

It will be interesting in the comments on this in regards to those who have written posts stating extreme disdain for anything China and vehemently oppose working with them any more than absolutely necessary, and how that conflicts with potential ecological effects here at home. Will the majority suddenly switch into a NIMBY? I guess about 100 comments will tell…

As for me, I’d rather we do it right here on our soil. If it ends up being a colossal mistake, so be it. I’ve never been one to be a benchwarmer.

Don Kasak
Don Kasak
7 months ago

A headline on the Verge about the potential Arkansas lithium mine referred to the underground deposit as part of the “Smackover Foundation,” and all I could think of was that ExxonMobil is now a pro wrestling partner.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
7 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hardigree

I have to disappoint both of you by pointing out that it’s actually the Smackover Formation, not Foundation.

Fortunately, as a geology instructor, disappointing people is all part of the job.

JerryLH3
JerryLH3
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

As a P.G. who works for a state agency, disappointing people can often be a part of my job too!

SubieSubieDoo
SubieSubieDoo
7 months ago
Reply to  Don Kasak

There are quite a few companies working in the Smackover Formation and a couple that have been working on direct lithium extraction (a.k.a. pulling brine from deposits underground, pulling out the lithium, and sending the brine back underground without the use of brine pools). Companies like Standard Lithium and Tenova are wading deep into these waters. Yes, the pun is intended. If DLE takes shape for commercial lithium production it would be an environmental win for birds, fish, and the future use of the land itself.

That being said, I’d never trust ExxonMobil to mail an envelope with USPS without figuring out a way to cause significant harm to sea life. They are ExxonMobil for goodness sakes!

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
7 months ago

I’m glad to hear that Americans are as comfortable half-assing work votes as they are democracy votes. “The polls say my candidate is up by 5. I think I’ll clean the garage/watch the game/play COD instead of voting”.

14 hours later- “OH NOOOES HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!”

DadBod
DadBod
7 months ago

And speaking of Exxon, check out Private Empire by Steve Coll. It’s jaw dropping how massive, powerful, and amoral that organization is.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
7 months ago

I have no idea what Direct Lithium Extraction is so its Google to the rescue:

https://www.ibatterymetals.com/insights/all-you-need-to-know-about-the-direct-lithium-extraction-process

Looks like its a process of absorbing the lithium from the brine on…something then heating it by burning NG to boil off other things then washing it using a proprietary process with fresh water.

Not particularly helpful.

OTOH it looks like Arkansas isn’t the only place in the US this is being tried:

“An emerging geothermal technology the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is researching is direct lithium extraction (DLE), which extracts lithium from underground brine. DLE could be a game-changing extraction method, potentially delivering 10 times the current U.S. lithium demand from California’s Salton Sea known geothermal area alone.

Average lithium supply from underneath this salt lake is estimated at more than 24,000 metric tons annually, according to a 2021 NREL report, “Techno-Economic Analysis of Lithium Extraction from Geothermal Brines,” authored by Ian Warren, senior geoscientist at NREL.

“Lithium-rich geothermal brines represent a vast, untapped resource that can potentially be developed into a robust domestic supply while adding to a well-paying workforce,” Warren said.

The Salton Sea sits on the seismically active San Andreas Fault. Molten rock heats the underground water beneath the lakebed into a pressurized brine as hot as 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The brine is already used in nearly a dozen geothermal power plants to create electricity, and these same facilities can serve as an important part of DLE development.”

FWIW I like the idea of using geothermal heat instead of burning natural gas much better.

https://www.nrel.gov/news/program/2021/using-direct-lithium-extraction-to-secure-us-supplies.html

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
7 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

That is very cool.

Salaryman
Salaryman
7 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

Technically, it is warm.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
7 months ago
Reply to  Salaryman

Thanks Steve. Lol

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
7 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

The basin of the Salton Sea is already severely compromised by metal salt contamination, and has geothermal power sources that make saline lithium extraction quite viable commercially. If they brought in sea water to do the extractions, you could actually IMPROVE the Salton Sea biome with creative discharge stream manaement. That’s where they need to do it. Not eastern hardwood forests in Arkansas. Bad, bad idea. Bad.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
7 months ago
Reply to  Doctor Nine

Creative Discharge Stream Management is your new band name.

...getstoneyII
...getstoneyII
7 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

Speaking of band names…When I get robocalls they usually just get blocked, but for whatever reason I got two in a row today that went through. The caller ID said Scam Likely. I instantly thought that Scam Likely would be a great band name. That or the name of a pulp novel detective or something.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
7 months ago
Reply to  ...getstoneyII

My phone provider sends me a text every month with the amount I owe, but their own security system identifies it as ‘possible fraud’.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
7 months ago
Reply to  Doctor Nine

Yep. Lots of fertilizer runoff into that water too. That’s why I am so disappointed solar desalination has yet to take off. It seems like such a win-win-win for places like the Salton Sea with plenty of sunshine, limited fresh water but plenty of water contaminated with useful things. Instead desalination seems focused on billion dollar RO systems to supply cities instead of agriculture despite the fact 70-80% of California’s water use is for plants and animals, not people.

DadBod
DadBod
7 months ago

There’s a lithium deposit in Maine that’s run up against mining laws and FUD. Supposedly it could be extracted like a rock quarry and processed elsewhere. I’m confident someone will figure out a way to exploit it.

Drew
Drew
7 months ago

I think it’s fair to wonder if lithium drilling will be like fracking. Pulling saltwater, taking out the lithium, and putting it back could have a number of ill effects. Not only is there potential for disrupting underground structures, but treating/modifying water in any way and putting it back into groundwater reservoirs could have significant unforeseen environmental impact.

That said, people with a lot more education on these things have hopefully studied the potential impacts. My girlfriend does water law (in a different state, with different situations and impacts), and I know that injecting treated water into groundwater is strictly limited, and I would hope getting the approval for this sort of project would involve a lot of research and study. I’ll have to remember to ask her opinion of this project after work, since she has relevant education and experience.

Erik Waiss
Erik Waiss
7 months ago
Reply to  Drew

Speaking as a professional geologist at a state environmental agency I can say we have an entire section devoted to underground injection controls. There are a lot of regulations and at the top is preservation of “economic” (i.e. ag and drinking) water reservoirs.

Drew
Drew
7 months ago
Reply to  Erik Waiss

She mostly works with water appropriated for ag and drinking, and that is what I’ve been exposed to. For something like this that does not involve economic reservoirs, would there still be significant impact assessment, or does underground saltwater fall far enough down the list to be mostly overlooked?

Last edited 7 months ago by Drew
Erik Waiss
Erik Waiss
7 months ago
Reply to  Drew

Not my section, so take this with a grain of salt…

Most of the deep water I’ve ever worked with is amazingly salty. Like, mind-bogglingly so. One formation that gives up usable water at the surface on the east side of the state is mostly fresh. But the formation is slanted down so that at the center of the state, if you drill deep enough to tap it, the salt content is about 4 times that of sea water.

I understand that they have to show there will not be a significant effect on the salinity or pH of those waters after injection. Also, ensure no void or cavity erosion. Deepwell geology is weird, there is just so much rock between layers that you can pump all sorts of weirdness down there without ever risking the surface environment.

Drew
Drew
7 months ago
Reply to  Erik Waiss

Thank you for the insight.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
7 months ago
Reply to  Erik Waiss

Appreciate info from an informed source: thanks for commenting on this

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
7 months ago
Reply to  Erik Waiss

So, you’re basically Randy Marsh?

Erik Waiss
Erik Waiss
7 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

No, I’m not allowed to touch volcanoes in my position…

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
7 months ago
Reply to  Erik Waiss

Its when the volcanoes touch you you’ve got a problem…

JerryLH3
JerryLH3
7 months ago
Reply to  Erik Waiss

Also speaking as a P.G. at a state agency, this formation at 10,000 feet underground is so much deeper than typical groundwater drinking sources.

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
7 months ago
Reply to  Erik Waiss

Curious, can you comment on advancements in liner technology? Also in fracking, are there not environmentally friendly substitutes for the toxic additives that have contaminated groundwater?

Erik Waiss
Erik Waiss
7 months ago
Reply to  Hoonicus

Again, not my industry (anymore) so I can’t speak to modern advancements. But generally speaking Fracking is done at a depth and in formations that have oil/gas, not (drinking) water. The problems we are incurring with those contaminants are from the disposal of Used fracking solutions. Once the fracking in completed they have to pump it back out in order to pull the oil/gas through all those new cracks and fissures. Now you have 10s of thousands of gallons of frack water that has whatever you put in it to begin with, and also oil/gas residues from the formation you pumped. It is far far cheaper to find an permeable layer to pump that into at a shallow depth (which may then be connected to drinkable aquifers) than it is to treat that water properly. Most States and even Fed regs have extremely broad exemptions for oil & gas exploration waste, so it is very difficult to put the screws to them to properly manage that waste.

Erik Waiss
Erik Waiss
7 months ago

I mean, we used to have a Uranium mine in my state that was just a couple groups of wells that would pump a cocktail into one well, and pump out the ion-rich solution from a nearby well. Then they’d process that “brine” it to get the uranium to drop out of solution.

I suppose you can do this with any metal if you have the right ionic solution at depth?

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