HomeCarbon NewsGulf Oil Giants Saudi Aramco and ADNOC to Launch Sustainable Lithium Extraction...

Gulf Oil Giants Saudi Aramco and ADNOC to Launch Sustainable Lithium Extraction Projects

The Gulf giants Saudi Aramco and ADNOC (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company) have been actively pursuing diversification of their revenue streams, aiming to explore profitable ventures beyond oil. This move is driven by the necessity to finance extensive state programs and, in Saudi Arabia’s instance, the Vision 2030 plan spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

This plan entails substantial investments in futuristic projects across the Saudi deserts, necessitating alternative sources of income. One such exciting project is lithium extraction from brine.

The purpose aligns with the global shift to clean energy and capitalizing on the EV market of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The demand for lithium is also expected to surge as it’s the key component of EV batteries.

Aramco and ADNOC’s Ambitious Lithium Extraction Plans

As per reports, Aramco and ADNOC’s lithium extractions plan are in a nascent stage. They are aiming to introduce a completely new technology i.e. extracting lithium from brine. Middle East contributes to global 55% of brine production originating from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, and Qatar.

Both companies are exploring ways to tap lithium-rich brine from the vast stretches of salars and oilfield brines and subsequently process it to extract superior quality lithium for EV industrial applications.

Lithium extraction is an exhaustive mining process, that leaves behind a significantly high carbon footprint. Not only this, refining the mineral from brine involves high cost and a low concentration of net product. To mitigate environmental and cost implications, both ADNOC and Aramco will be using Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technology.

DLE is a new-age innovative solution to produce high-grade commercial lithium at a low cost for the clean energy manufacturing industry. This technique employs a selective absorbent to extract lithium from brine water. The resultant solution is further purified to produce high-grade lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide.

Unlike other methods, DLE efficiently eliminates crucial impurities, ensuring a superior quality end-product.

A Diagrammatic Representation of Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) from Brine Technology

 

DIRECT LITHIUM EXTRACTION

Source: ibatterymetals.com

While ADNOC has not completely disclosed its extraction plan, it’s certainly exploring the latest and advanced technologies to make a smooth transition.

Filtering the ultralight battery metal from saltwater has the advantage of bypassing the necessity for expensive and environmentally taxing open-pit mines or extensive evaporation ponds. Such traditional rare earth mining processes are widely used in Australia and Chile.

America’s key players like ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum have also hailed the lithium extraction process from brine. They intend to line up with major oil giants across the globe to divulge from high carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

Gulf Nations Riding High on the Lithium Surge Wave

The Middle East has embraced the electric vehicle revolution with robust investment. The EV market was valued at US$2.7 billion in 2023 and is predicted to hit US$7.65 billion by 2028.

The transition in the transport sector from oil to electricity has pushed the demand for lithium in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Both nations are bolstering the production of Li batteries and EVs with significant investment.

The UAE, as a part of its commitment to achieving net-zero emissions target aims to have 50% of all vehicles on the road as electric and hybrid by 2050.

Saudi Arabia has already launched its domestic EV brand CEER Motors two years back projecting an ambitious plan to manufacture 500,000 vehicles/year by 2030. This would automatically boost lithium demand and promise long-term green prospects for the rare earth mineral.

A significant update from the news is- the Saudi-based mining company Ma’aden is ramping up its pilot facilities to extract lithium from seawater using membrane-based lithium extraction technology.

Ma’aden’s endeavors to extract lithium from seawater could play a crucial role in addressing the increasing demand for this vital mineral in Saudi’s EV market.

In recent developments, UAE’s KEZAD Group and Titan Lithium sealed a $1.4 billion (AED 5 billion) deal to construct a high-tech lithium processing plant in Abu Dhabi.

According to the KEZAD group, on completion, the plant will import ~ 150,000 tonnes of lithium annually from their mines located in Zimbabwe. It will undergo processing in Abu Dhabi.

Mohamed Al Khadar Al Ahmed, CEO of KEZAD Group has exuberantly expressed his views on this momentous deal,

“We welcome Titan Lithium Industries to Kezad and look forward to the project’s significant contribution to the UAE’s strategic vision of diversifying its economy and reinforcing its position in the global market.”

The top Gulf nations – Saudi Arabia and UAE have abundant oil resources. They enable them to undertake financial ventures with confidence. Aramco and ADNOC have already envisioned the rising trend of lithium demand in the EV manufacturing sector.

We shall keep you posted with the latest innovations, developments, and deals happening in the rapidly growing lithium industry and EVs in the Middle East towards global sustainability.

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