- Standard Lithium recently completed option agreement on 33,000-acre lease in longtime commodities-producing region
- Company expects existing historical data to streamline quick turnaround in resource estimates
- Lithium exploration gaining popularity as tech industry companies seek to shore up supply lines
- Recent drilling order announcement clearly puts Administration on side of energy industry
Standard Lithium Ltd. (TSX.V: SLL) (FRA: S5L) (OTCQX: STLHF) is exploring the possibility that oil resource-rich Southern Arkansas could become a large source of lithium amid demands for the modern tech commodity.
Since 1920, the Smackover region’s oil fields near the state’s boundary with Louisiana have been a major employer, even though the boom years ended about a decade after the first large discovery. The oilfield brine byproduct was long considered a nuisance, but, in time, it came to be celebrated for chemicals with fire-retardant properties. Following a second round of mineral exploration, Arkansas has become the world’s largest producer of bromine.
A modern need to augment the scarce mineral resources that make up the high-tech, high-efficiency lithium-ion batteries in so many mobile phones and other Internet-connected consumer electronics, as well as electric vehicles, is fueling what could become a game-changing third round of mineral excitement in the region. Automakers and other companies competing in a global marketplace are jostling with each other to secure a steady supply chain well before an actual need for more lithium-ion battery components exists.
Lithium-ion batteries are also significant players in mass storage systems for electrical power grid operators. As the systems look for longer capacity in their storage technology, lithium is expected to remain a key player (http://nnw.fm/A4vFx), particularly as the cost of the batteries continues to fall. However, electric vehicles and governmental demands for ‘clean energy’ are expected to dominate the market for the batteries in the coming decade or more.
Standard Lithium, which considers part of its mission to minimize resource and political risks in its exploration efforts, considers the 33,000 acres of Smackover Formation brine leases it signed an option agreement for this month to be fertile ground, given the area’s long history of brine production; significant existing infrastructure; access to roads, power and water; and the trained workforce in the region, as well as its existing brine extraction, processing and re-injection permitting regime.
“Due to the wealth of already-available data from our new project area, we can start the process of compiling a maiden resource estimate for this large lease package extremely quickly, with a minimum of additional intrusive investigation,” President and COO Andy Robinson stated in a news release about the agreement issued on January 8 (http://nnw.fm/pUf6U).
The existing infrastructure and data would allow Standard Lithium its best chance of quickly adding resources to its assets.
The company states that Arkansas produces the equivalent of 42.6 million cubic meters, or 9.38 billion gallons, of brine per year, based on the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission’s reported average brine production from between 2010 and 2016. Almost all of those billions of gallons of brine came from the Smackover Formation.
The Smackover Formation itself extends through Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, and it has produced billions of barrels of brines during the last eight decades from an “extensive and extremely well characterized” aquifer, according to the company’s analysis.
Standard Lithium also has a significant lithium exploration project under way in Southern California’s Mojave Desert. Having a large domestic source for lithium-ion batteries would help satisfy concerns about a secure supply chain in United States markets that currently see half of their lithium supply come from imports. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the United States reported only 38,000 tons of defined lithium reserves.
“The U.S. has a lot more untapped lithium resources than economically mined reserves at this point,” USGS mineral commodity specialist Brian Jaskula said in a February report (http://nnw.fm/f9L19). In addition, the recent government order opening offshore waters to drilling (http://nnw.fm/oK3kt) is a clear indication of Administration support for the overall tapping of oil resources.
For more information, visit the company’s website at http://nnw.fm/standardlithium
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