Saturday, December 1, 2012

Helium prices balloon as supplies run out

Every couple years we run a story similar to this. Because of the physics and chemistry helium is one of the few irreplaceable elements. But...and that's a big but...if you want to make the big money go for the isotope, Helium 3 rather than straight up He, you'll make a fortune in the electricity biz.
From the FT via CNN International:
(Financial Times) -- A global shortage of helium, the lighter-than-air gas, has put a stop to the sale of inflatable Mickey Mouse heads at Disneyland in Tokyo, threatened parades during the US Thanksgiving holiday and disrupted university research.

Global production of helium -- used in industrial and medical applications, as well as balloons -- has sharply fallen this year in the US and Algeria, the two biggest exporters.
Companies in Japan, the world's leading helium importer, say they are looking to tap alternative, but more expensive, sources of supply in Qatar, Russia and Poland.

However, because the supply disruptions come as demand in China and India is rising, the global market remains "tight", said Shi Quan, a trader in Shanghai. The squeeze represents the second big shortage for the $500m helium market in five years, after glitches in 2007 at a plant owned by ExxonMobil. Now, the focus is again the US, which provided almost four-fifths of the 180m cubic metres of helium consumed around the world last year.

The shortfall has been triggered by maintenance of ageing US installations, including a pipeline system that connects a helium-rich natural gasfield in Amarillo, Texas, with processing plants....MORE
May 15, 2012 
“Chances are you’ve heard little or nothing from your constituents about helium over the past 15 years,” 
-Walter Nelson, director of helium sourcing at Air Products and Chemicals 
January 2008
Via BW's Green Biz blog

One possible fly in the ointment: Peak Helium!
THE world’s supply of balloon gas helium is set to run out in a DECADE, a scientist said yesterday.
The price has already doubled in a year.
Now Professor Lee Sobtoka has called for it to be rationed, and existing stocks recycled. He said at Washington University: “There’s no way to make an alternative".....