Imperial Oil Limited has announced a collaboration agreement with E3 Lithium to advance a lithium-extraction pilot in Alberta, Canada, exploring the redevelopment of an historic oil field into a potential new leading source of lithium for Canada’s growing critical minerals industry.
The pilot will support E3 Lithium’s Clearwater project, which will draw lithium from under the Leduc oil field, Imperial’s historic discovery that first launched major oil and gas development in Western Canada. E3 Lithium’s proprietary technology is designed to extract the critical mineral from the lithium-rich brine, with potential for commercial development of battery-grade products.
“This exciting collaboration brings together Imperial’s long-standing commitment to research and technology to help test and scale E3’s lithium-recovery technology,” Jason Iwanika, Director of Commercial Business Development at Imperial, said. “We continue to advance the innovation and technologies needed to support the energy transition, working in collaboration with governments and industry to progress new opportunities from existing assets and sector expertise.”
Chris Doornbos, CEO of E3 Lithium, said: “E3 Lithium and Imperial share an interest in the diversification of the Alberta economy, local job creation and sustainability. Leduc No.1, Imperial’s first well into this reservoir, was one of Imperial’s most prolific oil discoveries in Alberta and transformed the provincial and Canadian economies, much like lithium has the potential to do. Having Imperial now working with E3 Lithium in exploring the redevelopment of Leduc into a world-class source of lithium is an exciting new chapter in Alberta and Canada’s story.”
The pilot project includes drilling Alberta’s first lithium evaluation wells, planned to be completed by the end of the September quarter of this year. Work will also focus on scaling up E3 Lithium’s proprietary technology, which brings the brine liquid to the surface where the lithium is removed and concentrated. This liquid is immediately returned underground as part of a closed-loop system.
E3 Lithium’s preliminary economic assessment at Clearwater estimates the first phase of development could produce approximately 20,000 t/y of lithium hydroxide from 7 Mt of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) inferred mineral resources.
Under the agreement, E3 Lithium will continue to operate the Clearwater project and retain its IP, with technical and development support from Imperial in areas such as water and reservoir management. The agreement also includes access for E3 Lithium to freehold lands in the area, which are operated by Imperial.
E3’s DLE ion-exchange technology uses a proprietary sorbent designed to be highly selective towards lithium ions. It quickly and efficiently reduces large volumes of low-grade brine into a high-grade lithium concentrate in one step, simultaneously removing nearly all impurities, E3 says. This produces a very clean product for the development of high-purity lithium compounds used in Li-ion batteries.
As part of the agreement, Imperial has agreed to invest C$6.35 million ($4.90) into E3 at a pre-paid price of C$1.86/warrant and the issuance of 3,413,979 warrants.