Standard Lithium, the publicly traded Canadian company with a head start in the race to develop commercial lithium operations in south Arkansas, reported Tuesday that its drilling in east Texas has produced the highest confirmed concentrations of lithium brine in U.S. history.
The company said samples from a new east Texas well, west of planned commercial operations to produce battery-grade products near Lewisville (Lafayette County) and El Dorado, yielded “a new highest confirmed lithium-grade brine in North America.”
The brine, from a newly drilled well in the Smackover geological formation, tested at 663 milligrams of lithium per liter. The company didn’t say precisely where the well is.
“We continue to be very excited by the quality and scale of the lithium brine assets we’re adding in East Texas,” company President Andy Robinson said in a news release. “The lithium sample analysis from a newly-drilled well delivered, to the best of our knowledge, a new highest-grade lithium brine concentration in North America and confirmed that we are securing the highest-grade lithium brine resource outside of Chile and Argentina. We continue to expand our footprint in the East Texas Smackover and de-risk the opportunity with additional drilling, sampling and definition work.”
“East Texas is a significant addition to our two more advanced projects in Arkansas, the Phase 1A and South West Arkansas Projects,” Robinson added. “We expect our East Texas landholdings to form a substantially larger and higher-grade lithium brine project for future production. Standard Lithium will continue to progress its portfolio of projects to help meet U.S. demand for lithium over the next decade.”
The Smackover formation, which runs 400 miles from Texas to Florida, crosses Arkansas along a strip of its southern border and was the center of Arkansas’ oil and gas discoveries a century ago that put towns like El Dorado and Magnolia on the petrochemical map. The region has also been a hub for bromine, which has been drawn from the brine for more than 50 years. Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said last month that Arkansas is looking to become America’s lithium capital.
Standard Lithium expects its Phase A1 project, a collaboration with bromine brine producer Lanxess of Germany, to produce up to 5,400 tons of battery-quality lithium carbonate per year over 25 years with an average lithium grade of 217 milligrams per liter.
A preliminary feasibility study for Standard’s South West Arkansas Project, a much larger production facility about 15 miles west of Magnolia, outlines plans for at least 30,000 tons of battery-quality lithium hydroxide per year over a 20-year operating life, with an average reported lithium grade of 437 milligrams per liter.
“Lithium grades in the company’s projects indicate an increasing trend moving westward from Phase 1A to the South West Arkansas Project and finally, into East Texas,” the release said. “In Standard Lithium’s experience, higher lithium grades in brine are directly correlated with lower capital and operating expenses per ton of lithium produced, thereby enhancing the economic viability of potential projects.”
Standard Lithium said its team had been working in the Smackover formation for three-and-a-half years, and that brine from its East Texas Smackover Well No. 2 yielded lithium concentrations many times higher than samples from other domestic brine regions.
The samples were analyzed and reported by Western Environmental Testing Laboratories of Sparks, Nevada, an accredited third-party tester. The east Texas sample of 638 milligrams per liter, on average, was three times more concentrated from geothermal brine in the Salton Sea of California, at 204 milligrams per liter, and far higher than brines from the Paradox Basin in Utah (123 mg/L) and Clayton Valley in Nevada (also 23 mg/L).