Helium is a noble gas and the smallest of all known elements, the second lightest and has the lowest boiling point. This combination of characteristics places helium as a unique commodity with numerous applications.

It also does not react to other elements or chemicals, making it the only gas that can be used to purge the liquid engines of super colliders and rockets.

As helium is lighter than air, it is actively being lost into space.

However helium is also actively being created via the decay of naturally occurring radioactive elements in rocks over time. The produced helium is liberated and carried in saline groundwater.

This is the setting for the American Helium project, where the released helium has been transported by groundwater and can accumulate in porous geological formations such as sandstone.

As a high-value product, liquid helium can be transported to reserves and processing facilities via ISO containers mounted onto trucks with no pipelines being necessary.

Market

A very large market currently dominated by the USA

Current global demand estimated to be over 6 bcf per annum, and to
be worth over US$ 6 billion.

USA is the largest producer with a 55% share in 2016, followed by Qatar with 32%, and Algeria, Australia, Russia, Poland and Canada also contributing smaller shares.

Recent known reserves for Helium producing countries are 137.73 bcf for USA, 63.57 bcf for Algeria and 60.03 bcf for Russia.

Supply & Demand

Global supply falling while demand increases


US reserves are dwindling due to the lack of helium production from its oil and gas fields and the country had already started importing helium from Qatar

Helium Uses

Widely used for important everyday technologies

Widely used in diverse applications such as cryogenics (i.e.MRI), welding, semiconductor manufacturing, optical fiber manufacturing, leak detection, lifting and others

Liquid helium is required for superconducting due to its ultra-low temperature (-269 °C)

Increasingly viewed as a high-tech element owing to its increased use in electronics manufacturing

Due to its unique properties, new applications for helium continue to emerge. Recent new applications include:

  • Computer hard drives
  • Google X Project Loon
  • Hybrid Air Vehicles (Lockheed Martin)

Bulk Liquid Helium Price

The price of Grade-A helium has risen by ~100% over the last 10 years