So Whats Up with Helium?


Its reserves are dwindling – right? That, at any rate, is the news that’s been promulgnated in recent years. With only a handful of studies as evidence, it was concluded that the global supply of helium (He) is being used up at a frightening rate and will soon be gone. (Well, all right, that could take several hundred years, but why mark time until things get out of hand, eh?)

We’re not of a mind to say a global helium shortage is just a lot of hot air; some evidence bears out the belief. We are of a mind, though, to assure you that WestAir Specialty Gases and Equipment in Southern California and the PurityPlus® partner network of 150-plus specialty gas producers and distributors at 600 facilities nationwide can readily take care of your helium needs well into the future. We’re also intent on spreading some good news about the world’s helium reserves. The point of it is that you haven’t any reason to fret that there isn’t enough helium for your professional needs. Take it from us; you’ll have plenty to facilitate each and every analytical task you typically perform, whether in the field of gas chromatography, spectroscopy, or mass spectrometry. The helium so necessary for the operation of MRI scanners, for the assembly of semiconductors and superconductors, for various space industry applications, and for hi-tech firms doing nuclear research is immediately available – and will remain so – from WestAir Specialty Gases and Equipment.

The good news about global helium reserves is that there are quite likely more of them than we once recognized existed. According to more-recent studies:

  • A few geological regions have shown groundwater carrying huge volumes of helium into natural gas fields and trapping it there.
  • Deep helium, let loose in the genesis of mountain ranges on the order of the Rockies, has trickled via groundwater into below-ground|]111] reservoirs where natural gas is found also.
  • In places of volcanic activity, ample heat is produced in seismic turbulence to release helium from common gas-trapping rock formations deeper underground into reservoirs in closer proximity to the earth’s surface. Obviously, it’s more accessible there – unless it’s too close to a volcano, which would make its harvesting awkward if not outright dangerous.

What these findings indicate is that, 1) we’ve long underestimated how much helium is actually available to us, and 2) understanding the way helium gets trapped in the natural reservoirs we’re aware of is revealing where to prospect for new helium resources.

Still, there are some who contend that there’s no helium crisis, that helium is continually produced in nature, and simply liquifying more natural gas would allow us to get higher quantities of helium from it. It’s true that helium is extracted from natural gas via condensation. But the equipment required to do it has thus far remained expensive. This has disincentivized widespread helium extraction from liquified natural gas (LNG). As equipment prices go down, however, more helium extraction kits can be added to wells, letting us draw out more of this noble gas before it would otherwise be burned up.

So, as we said earlier, don’t [fret|worry|despair|freak out]173]. We do have practical options for securing more helium. And you can count on WestAir Specialty Gases and Equipment here in Southern California to have the helium you need – whether as a coolant, a pressurizer, or a cleaning agent – whenever and wherever you need it.