So Whats Up with Helium?


There isn’t enough of it anymore – right? That, anyway, is the news that’s been out there in recent years. From a handful of studies, it was concluded that the world supply of helium (He) is being depleted at a frightening rate and will soon run out. (Well, all right, it might take another two, maybe three, centuries, but why mark time until things get desperate, eh?)

We’re not here to insist that there’s no such thing as a global helium shortage; some evidence bears out the perception. We are here, though, to assure you that GTW in Western Michigan and the PurityPlus® partner network of more than 150 specialty gas producers and distributors at 600 loctions coast to coast can readily satisfy your helium needs well into the future. We’d also like to spread a little good news about the world’s helium reserves. The upshot is that you’ve no reason to fret that there isn’t enough helium for your professional needs. Take it from us; you’ll have a wealth of it to facilitate each and every analytical task you normally perform, whether in the realm of gas chromatography, spectroscopy, or mass spectrometry. The helium so indispensable for the operation of MRI scanners, for the manufacture of semiconductors and superconductors, for various space industry applications, and for hi-tech facilities conducting nuclear research is readily available – and will remain so – from GTW.

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

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

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

That said, there are some who maintain that a helium crisis isn’t upon us, that helium is constantly produced in nature, and simply liquifying more natural gas would allow us to pull higher quantities of helium from it. To be sure, helium is pulled from natural gas by way of condensation. But the equipment needed to do it has thus far remained costly. This has kept helium extraction from liquified natural gas (LNG) at a minimum. As equipment prices go down, however, more helium extraction kits can be added to wells, allowing us to seize more of this noble gas before it would normally be burned up.

So, again, never fear. We do have practical options for getting hold of more helium. And you can trust GTW here in Western Michigan to have the helium you need – whether as a coolant, a pressurizer, or a cleaning agent – whenever and wherever you need it.