Tag Archives: helium

Qatar blockade threatens worldwide helium supply

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.

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Geologists discover giant field of underground helium in Tanzania

Geologists have discovered a gigantic new field of underground helium gas, located in Tanzania’s Rift Valley.

Researchers figure there’s about 54 billion cubic feet of helium in just one section of the valley. To put that in context, the Federal Helium Reserve in Texas, which supplies more than 40% of domestic helium needs and contains about 30% of the world’s total helium supply, right now holds about 24.2 billion cubic feet, per Live Science.

The discovery is also important in that it wasn’t an accident. The geologists located the helium based on their theories of where they should find it.

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Helium reserves might be greater than previous believed

A new study suggests there are large untapped helium reserves under western North America.

The caveat is that they have not actually detected these reserves. Using proxies and based on their theories of how helium gets transported through the Earth, they now suspect that there is simply more underground than previous estimated.

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The Senate has passed a bill to allow the sale of the government’s stockpile of helium.

The Senate has passed a bill to allow the continued sale of the government’s stockpile of helium, but this time at market prices.

The House has already passed a similar bill. The two sides of Congress now have to come to agreement. If they don’t, come October sales cease and the supplies dry up.

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Government and the impending shortage of helium

The law of unintended consequences strikes again! We are going to run out of our supply of helium, and it is all because the government first tried to manage and control the resource in the early 20th century, and then decided in the 1990s to extricate itself from that management. For those of us following the continuing space war over NASA’s future, this story is most instructive in illustrating how difficult it is to get the government out of our lives, once we have let it in.

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