How is Helium extracted at WestAir Specialty Gases and Equipment

In the news there has been plenty conversation around the apparent lack of Helium obtainable in Southern California and elsewhere around the world. This causes concern given that this gas is applied throughout multiple industries in Southern California. Uses for the gas include:

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Lifting gas – for hot air balloons and smaller recreational balloons
  • Breathing Mixtures – for deep-water diving and medical treatments
  • Welding Gas – utilized as a shielding atmosphere

Helium is a byproduct of radioactive decay in natural gas. Therefore since natural gas has the most volume of helium, most specialty gas laboratories like WestAir Specialty Gases and Equipment will obtain Helium via natural gas. There are also trace amounts of helium in the air which can also be mined, however the process for that is expensive and rarely used.

Helium is sometimes removed from natural gas through a cryogenic piping system. The natural gas is pressurized, and then passed through a sieve. During this scrubbing process, helium is separated from natural gas so that only crude helium remains. At this point, since the crude helium is only about 50% pure, increased purification processes are needed.

The temperature on the helium is decreased to -315 degrees Fahrenheit so that any remnant nitrogen or methane gases become liquefied and can be easily drained from the gas. The heat on the helium is then turned up and oxygen is added to the gas so that any remaining particles of hydrogen will mix with the oxygen creating water. Once the water vapors are formed, the mixture is decreased and the water is drained from the mixture.

Once the water has been drained, the Helium is poured into vessels filled with tiny particles to further purify the gas (think of the carbon water filters in most homes in Southern California today). The process is repeated until the Helium is 99.99% pure specialty gas.

We at WestAir Specialty Gases and Equipment take this purification process very serious as multiple industries, from the medical industry to the food & beverage industry, rely on our specialty gases for the best possible experience.

To learn more on how your company can get the best Helium in Southern California, contact WestAir Specialty Gases and Equipment today.