November 14, 2012

POPULAR MECHANICS: As Shortage Worsens, We Visit the Federal Helium Reserve.

The BLM expects the worldwide demand for helium, currently about 6.2 billion cubic feet per year, to increase about 10 percent in the coming years. But the world’s helium supply has been in trouble.

In October helium increased from $84 per thousand cubic feet, or Mcf, up from $75.75 per Mcf for the first nine months of 2012. Prices are increasing because most of the helium produced elsewhere in the world comes from the production of liquefied natural gas, an industry hit hard by falling demand because of the faltering economy. And as demand in Asia is rising, helium enrichment plants in the Middle East and Australia have been hit by maintenance problems that created a shortage expected to last through 2013, or until new helium enrichment plants can start running.

Here in the U.S. there is only enough helium left in the government reserve near Amarillo to last about another three years. The reasons are both technological and political.

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