So … What’s Up with Helium?


There’s not much of it left – right? That, in any case, is the news that’s been circulating in recent years. With only a handful of studies as evidence, it was determined that the global supply of helium (He) is being exhausted at a frightening rate and will soon be gone. (Well, yeah, that could take two or three more centuries, but why mark time until things get out of hand, eh?)

We’re not prepared to insist that there isn’t a global helium shortage; some evidence supports the belief. We are prepared, though, to assure you that Arc3 Gases in Richmond, Virginia and the PurityPlus® partner network of over 150 specialty gas producers and distributors at 600 loctions across the country can readily meet your helium needs well into the future. We’d also like to spread a bit of cheer about the world’s helium reserves. The truth is that you haven’t any reason to worry that there isn’t adequate helium for your professional needs. Relax; you’ll have plenty to facilitate each analytical task you customarily perform, whether in the sphere of gas chromatography, spectroscopy, or mass spectrometry. The helium so vital 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 involved in nuclear research is quickly available – and will continue to be – from Arc3 Gases.

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

  • A few geological areas have shown groundwater moving huge volumes of helium into natural gas fields and trapping it there.
  • Deep helium, freed in the genesis of mountain ranges such as the Rockies, has leaked via groundwater into subterranean reservoirs where natural gas is found also.
  • In areas of volcanic activity, plenty of heat is produced in seismic turmoil to release helium from common gas-trapping rock formations deeper underground into reservoirs in closer proximity to the earth’s surface. Obviously, it’s simpler to get at there – unless it’s too close to a volcano, which would make its extrication troublesome.

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

Of course, there are some who contend 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. Certainly helium is gotten from natural gas through condensation. But the equipment one needs to do it has thus far remained cost-prohibitive. This has kept helium extraction from liquified natural gas (LNG) at a minimum. As equipment prices drop, however, more helium extraction kits can be added to wells, enabling us to trap more of this noble gas before it would otherwise be burned up.

So, once more, never fear. We do have practical options for securing more helium. And you can count on Arc3 Gases here in Richmond, Virginia to have the helium you need – whether as a coolant, a pressurizer, or a cleaning agent – whenever and wherever you need it.