So Whats Up with Helium?


We haven’t got 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 reckoned that the international supply of helium (He) is being drained at a frightening rate and will soon run out. (Well, okay, it may take another two, maybe three, centuries, but why hold off until things get dicey, eh?)

We’re not here to assure you there’s no such thing as a global helium shortage; some evidence bears out the perception. We are here, though, to assure you that Wright Brothers in Cincinnati and the PurityPlus® partner network of more than 150 specialty gas producers and distributors at 600 facilities coast to coast can readily meet your helium needs well into the future. We’d also like to spread a bit of positive news about the world’s helium reserves. The reality is that you’ve no reason to fret that there isn’t adequate helium for your professional needs. Relax; you’ll have plenty to facilitate each analytical task you routinely perform, whether in the field of gas chromatography, spectroscopy, or mass spectrometry. The helium so imperative for the operation of MRI scanners, for the assembly of semiconductors and superconductors, for diverse space industry applications, and for hi-tech facilities conducting nuclear research is quickly available – and will continue to be – from Wright Brothers.

The positive news about global helium reserves is that there are quite likely more of them than we knew existed. According to more-recent studies:

  • Certain geological areas have shown groundwater conveying huge volumes of helium into natural gas fields and trapping it there.
  • Deep helium, loosed in the birth of mountain ranges on the order of the Rockies, has trickled via groundwater into subterrestrial reservoirs where natural gas is found as well.
  • In areas of volcanic activity, enough heat is produced in seismic disruptions to release helium from typical gas-trapping rock formations deeper underground into reservoirs closer to the earth’s surface. Obviously, it’s easier to access there – unless it’s too close to a volcano, which would make its removal tricky.

The takeaways of these findings are that, 1) we’ve long underestimated how much helium is really available to us, and 2) understanding how helium gets trapped in the natural reservoirs we’ve discoved is showing us where to survey for new helium resources.

That said, there are some who argue that there’s no helium crisis, that helium is continually produced in nature, and just liquifying more natural gas would make it possible for us to extract higher quantities of helium from it. Yes, helium is pulled from natural gas by way of condensation. But the equipment necessary to do it has thus far remained financially daunting. This has kept helium extraction from liquified natural gas (LNG) at a minimum. As equipment prices decrease, though, more helium extraction kits can be added to wells, permitting us to seize more of this noble gas before it would normally be burned up.

So, once more, never fear. We do have practical options for getting hold of more helium. And you can rely on Wright Brothers here in Cincinnati to have the helium you need – whether as a coolant, a pressurizer, or a cleaning agent – whenever and wherever you need it.