So Whats Up with Helium?


It’s in short supply – right? That, anyway, is the news that’s been promulgnated for the last few years. On the basis of select studies, it was deduced that the global supply of helium (He) is being used up at a frightening rate and will soon run out. (Well, okay, that could take another couple hundred years, give or take, but why hold off until things get dicey, eh?)

We’re not prepared to try convincing you a global helium shortage is silly; some evidence supports the perception. We are prepared, though, to assure you that Weldstar Specialty Gases in Northern Illinois and the PurityPlus® partner network of 150-plus specialty gas producers and distributors at 600 installations coast to coast can readily meet your helium needs well into the future. We’re also intent on spreading some cheer about the world’s helium reserves. The truth is that there’s no reason to fret that there isn’t sufficient helium for your professional needs. Relax; you’ll have plenty to facilitate each and every analytical task you normally perform, whether in the field of gas chromatography, spectroscopy, or mass spectrometry. The helium so necessary for the operation of MRI scanners, for the manufacture of semiconductors and superconductors, for various space industry applications, and for hi-tech outfits engaged in nuclear research is immediately available – and will continue to be – from Weldstar Specialty Gases.

The good news about global helium reserves is that there might actually be more of them than we knew existed. According to more-recent studies:

  • Certain geological territories have shown groundwater moving huge volumes of helium into natural gas fields and trapping it there.
  • Deep helium, let loose in the creation of mountain ranges like the Rockies, has trickled via groundwater into subterranean reservoirs where natural gas is found also.
  • In regions where volcanic eruptions are the norm, ample heat is produced in seismic disturbances to release helium from common gas-trapping rock formations deeper underground into reservoirs nearer to the earth’s surface. Obviously, it’s more accessible there – unless it’s too close to a volcano, which would make its removal problematic.

The takeaways of these findings are that, 1) we’ve long underestimated how much helium is really available to us, and 2) understanding how helium gets trapped in the natural reservoirs we know about is disclosing where to survey for new helium resources.

In spite of all this, there are some who argue that a helium crisis isn’t upon us, that helium is constantly produced in nature, and just liquifying more natural gas would make it possible for us to pull higher quantities of helium from it. Certainly helium is gotten from natural gas by means of condensation. But the equipment one needs to do it has thus far remained cost-prohibitive. This has discouraged widespread helium extraction from liquified natural gas (LNG). As equipment prices tumble, though, more helium extraction kits can be added to wells, letting us draw out more of this noble gas before it would normally be burned up.

So, to sum things up, never fear. We do have reasonable options for getting hold of more helium. And you can trust Weldstar Specialty Gases here in Northern Illinois to have the helium you need – whether as a coolant, a pressurizer, or a cleaning agent – whenever and wherever you need it.