New Technology Magazine

Batteries From Oil: Empire Investigates Lithium Enriched Brines Co-Produced With Oil As Commercial Opportunity

Vancouver based Empire Rock Minerals Inc. is investigating the possibility of extracting lithium and other elements from formation water in the Fox Creek area of Alberta to supply the booming battery manufacturing industry.

Empire has agreed to acquire a 70 per cent interest in the Fox Creek Lithium Project, which covers large portions of producing oil and gas fields hosted in the Devonian aged carbonate reef complex that hosts a saline formation water aquifer known as the Beaverhill Lake Brine.

The Beaverhill Lake Brine contains elevated, and potentially economic, concentrations of lithium, potassium, boron, bromine, calcium, magnesium and sodium.

The saline formation waters of the Beaverhill Lake Brine are currently being recovered with the commercial production of petroleum products from producing wells at Fox Creek, then removed and treated as a waste product and reinjected into the Beaverhill Lake or other formations. 

Previous testing of the Beaverhill Lake Brine by Hazen Research, Inc. indicates significant amounts of these desired elements can be extracted—up to 98 per cent for lithium, 88 per cent for bromine, 100 per cent for boron and 40 per cent for potassium.

Empire intends to fully investigate the dynamics of commercial production of lithium carbonate and other elements at Fox Creek including further metallurgical extraction work following closing of the acquisition.

Empire believes these lithium enriched brines produced as a byproduct by existing wells within these oil and gas fields constitute an important and significant commercial opportunity for the production of lithium carbonate and other desired elements. 

The industrial mineral potential of formation waters in Alberta was initially investigated by the Alberta Geological Survey in a multi-year study examining over 130,000 formation water analyses for potassium, lithium, calcium, magnesium, iodine and bromine.

In 2010, the Alberta Geological Survey constructed an Alberta-wide Lithium Groundwater and Formation Water Geochemical dataset, comprised of data from the AGS and the Alberta Research Council to compile data to aid industry in evaluating lithium enriched aquifers in Alberta.

The Fox Creek Lithium Project and related property interests cover a large property area of 355,000 hectares or 877,000 acres in 42 metallic and industrial minerals permits issued in late 2015 and early 2016.

Robust market demand for lithium and widely forecast increased demand associated with battery technologies including Elon Musk and Tesla Motors, Inc.'s electric car and commercial battery successes and Gigafactory 1, coupled with Fox Creek's mature petroleum fields with existing wells and established infrastructure, make potential commercial production of lithium from current petroleum production at Fox Creek a compelling business opportunity.

"Lithium production for batteries is a huge industry with a very bright future. Supplying lithium carbonate from brines for that growing industry is a terrific business opportunity," stated Empire's president, Lisa Chapman. "We envision extracting lithium carbonate utilizing Fox Creek's existing wells and infrastructure as an innovative and potentially transformative business opportunity as consumers race to renewable green energies."

Alberta is a world-class jurisdiction for oil and gas production. Fox Creek has excellent infrastructure and an extensive and highly skilled workforce.

The acquisition agreement provides for Empire to acquire a 70 per cent interest in the Fox Creek Project together with 100 per cent of two private Alberta companies, Lithium Power Corp. and Dominica Energy Minerals Inc., for $100,000 and 1,200,000 Empire common shares from two private and one corporate vendors. Empire will also pay certain costs and fees not to exceed $45,000. The remaining 30 per cent interest in Fox Creek is held by Blizzard Finance Corp. together with a 2.2 per cent gross revenue royalty. Empire will invest the first $2 million in Fox Creek's development, then share costs on a 70/30 basis. Blizzard is well funded.

Empire is a Canadian exploration and development company with a number of green energy assets. Empire owns a 100 per cent interest in the Buck Lake platinum, palladium, nickel project near the Lac des Iles mine, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and an interest in the Graphite West Project, a prospective hydrothermal graphite exploration target located immediately west of Zenyatta Ventures Ltd.'s Albany hydrothermal graphite deposit.


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