E3 Lithium, Imperial Oil expand Alberta pilot project

Field pilot plant in central Alberta. (Image: E3 Lithium’s corporate presentation.)

E3 Lithium (TSXV: ETMC) and Imperial Oil (TSX: IMO) said on Monday they are tighten up ties to advance a pilot plant in Canada’s oil patch, where they are testing together a direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology.

The two companies, which first announced their collaboration in 2022, have agreed to expand the scope of the Clearwater project, owned by E3, from which the companies hope to be able to extract naturally occurring lithium from oilfield brines.

The Calgary-based lithium junior has also agreed to extend the expiry date of the warrants granted to Imperial Oil, a unit of ExxonMobil, by an additional 12 months, which can now be exercised until July 8, 2025.

“This continued collaboration between E3 Lithium and Imperial is reaffirmed today given our shared vision to establish sustainable lithium production in Canada,” the company’s president and chief executive, Chris Doornbos, said in the statement.

The agreement update comes amid a changing attitude among the world’s oil heavyweights. Traditionally, oil drillers have disposed of the brine by pumping it back into the ground.

The increasing demand for lithium from electric vehicles (EVs) manufacturers, paired with the US and Canada’s initiatives to secure domestic battery metal supplies, have transformed this once-waste brine into a valuable resource.

Top oil reaching for lithium

Oil companies are exploring these kinds of initiatives include Occidental Petroleum Corp., which said last year it would begin investing in extraction of the battery metal from brine through its subsidiary TerraLithium.

ExxonMobil is drilling its first lithium well in the Smackover formation in southern Arkansas, with first production expected in 2027.

European oil rivals BP and Shell have invested in EV charging stations as part of their energy transition strategy. 

Both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’ national oil companies are reportedly planning to obtain lithium from brine in their oilfields.

Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Ma’aden), the Gulf’s largest miner, is already working to extract lithium from seawater.

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