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The recent blockade imposed against Qatar by other Middle East countries, supposedly because of its support of terrorism, threatens the world’s supply of helium.
Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of helium and its second-largest producer, accounting for 25% of global demand (see ‘Helium supplies’). So the blockade will inevitably cause shortfalls over the next few months, says Phil Kornbluth, a consultant based in Bridgewater, New Jersey, who specializes in the helium industry.
Countries likely to be most affected are those closest to Qatar. But Asian countries such as India, China, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore are also at risk. “But none of us are immune,” adds William Halperin, a researcher in low-temperature physics at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
The U.S. is the world’s largest producer of helium, producing about twice as much as Qatar. That production is for our local markets, while Qatar exports it worldwide.