Unexpected Source of Lithium from the Oil & Gas Industry
Shane Laros posted on November 18, 2016 |
Vital battery material derived from brine water byproduct of oil extraction.
Oil production in northern Alberta has been the source of considerable controversy stemming from environmental impacts of mining. (Image courtesy of New York Times.)
Oil production in northern Alberta has been the source of considerable controversy stemming from environmental impacts of mining. (Image courtesy of New York Times.)
Advocates for “green energy” should be excited by any new prospects for lithium—the basis for batteries used in everything from cell phones to electric vehicles. However, they are less likely to be impressed with the newest method of lithium production.

Despite being discovered and tested in lab environments in the past, a technique for producing lithium from brine water produced as a byproduct of oil extraction has been submitted for patent by MGX Minerals Inc. The company has dubbed the technology Petrolithium.

If successful, MGX would hold sole rights to the technology for the next twenty years. As it stands, the company’s application has protected its rights for the next year, allowing freedom to apply in other countries as well.

The MGX Petrolithium process is said to produce lithium at a much higher rate than existing techniques, from solar evaporation to hard rock mining. These existing technologies are either extremely time consuming, expensive to operate or both.

While the vast majority of lithium production requires mining operations, making use of the water generated in oil extraction could potentially unlock a better method for disposing of mining byproducts.

(Image courtesy of Natural Resources Canada.)
(Image courtesy of Natural Resources Canada.)
The company has taken the opportunity to place itself in a position to acquire large amounts of produced water from mining operations in the Alberta Oil Sands region, including interests in a large tract of land in the Sturgeon Lake project lands, an area in which previous owners were deemed non-compliant due to a lack of demonstrable technology to process the lithium.

It should be noted that this does not negate the environmental impact of the Oil Sands, a hotly debated source of revenue for Canada, though the technology could potentially lead to better production of lithium from other sources as well.

If MGX has its way, any of these other applications would have to go through the company first, which has formed a number of partnerships with major players in the Alberta region, including the Halliburton Company, Suncor Energy, Baker Hughes and Imperial Oil.

Though lithium production is essential in the development and manufacturing of high capacity batteries, finding an efficient and environmentally cost effective method of production to offset the impact to the environment will be crucial in the turn to green energy solutions.

Check out this article to see how demand for lithium is being affected by the electric vehicle market.

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