So Whats Up with Helium?


It’s in short supply – right? That, at least, is the news that’s been spread in recent years. With only a handful of studies as evidence, it was concluded that the world supply of helium (He) is being used up at a frightening rate and will soon be gone. (Well, all right, it may take another two, maybe three, centuries, but why hold off until things get dicey, eh?)

We’re not going to assure you a global helium shortage is just a lot of hot air; some evidence supports the idea. We are, however, going to assure you that Spec Air Specialty Gases in Auburn and the PurityPlus® partner network of 150-plus specialty gas producers and distributors at 600 installations nationwide can readily meet your helium needs well into the future. We’re also intent on spreading some positive news about the world’s helium reserves. The gist of it is that you haven’t any reason to fret that there isn’t adequate helium for your professional needs. Take it from us; you’ll have a wealth of it to facilitate each analytical task you routinely perform, be it in the sphere of gas chromatography, spectroscopy, or mass spectrometry. The helium so essential for the operation of MRI scanners, for the manufacture of semiconductors and superconductors, for all kinds of space industry applications, and for hi-tech firms doing nuclear research is immediately available – and will remain so – from Spec Air Specialty Gases.

The cheering news about global helium reserves is that there may really be more of them than we realized existed. According to more-recent studies:

  • A few geological regions have shown groundwater conveying huge volumes of helium into natural gas fields and trapping it there.
  • Deep helium, freed in the genesis of mountain ranges on the order of the Rockies, has leaked via groundwater into subterrestrial reservoirs where natural gas is found as well.
  • In places where volcanic eruptions are the norm, enough heat is produced in seismic turbulence to release helium from conventional gas-trapping rock formations deeper underground into reservoirs closer to the earth’s surface. Obviously, it’s more accessible there – unless it’s too close to a volcano, which would make its harvesting complicated.

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

Of course, there are some who argue that a helium crisis isn’t upon us, that helium is constantly produced in nature, and merely liquifying more natural gas would permit us to extract higher quantities of helium from it. Yes, helium is gotten from natural gas via condensation. But the equipment needed to do it has thus far remained cost-prohibitive. This has disincentivized widespread helium extraction from liquified natural gas (LNG). As equipment prices go down, though, more helium extraction kits can be added to wells, letting us trap more of this noble gas before it would normally be burned up.

So, as we said earlier, don’t [fret|worry|despair|freak out]173]. We do have workable options for collecting more helium. And you can trust Spec Air Specialty Gases here in Auburn to have the helium you need – whether as a coolant, a pressurizer, or a cleaning agent – whenever and wherever you need it.