Global Helium Market

Helium is a vital element for a number of major technologies that affect our lives every day, but the ability of existing and planned sources of helium supply to meet future demand is highly uncertain.

A number of factors have come together to create a precarious situation, starting with the 1996 decision by the US government to sell off nearly its entire stockpile of helium, stored in a depleted natural gas field in Amarillo, Texas.  This created an increase in supply and artificially depressed prices for much of the last decade.  Until recently, this facility was the only place in the world to store helium, so all of the helium that has been sold out of this reserve has already been consumed.

In addition to the depletion of the US government helium reserve, falling oil and gas prices caused by the advent of shale drilling, have caused the cancellation or significant delay of a number of major energy projects.  Helium has historically been produced as a byproduct in a few large conventional oil & gas projects, which happened to have a high helium content. Most projects of this type with helium potential have been cancelled in the last few years, as they have been replaced by spending on oil & gas production from shale, which cannot trap or produce significant quantities of helium. There are no major projects under development in North America that can replace the loss of helium supply from US government stockpile sales. Recent shortages have made existing helium demand less elastic and quickly-maturing new sources of helium demand could increase the rate of demand growth. From new low-cost reusable rockets for space launches, to the advancement of nuclear fusion, to autonomous floating Internet infrastructure, to new therapies targeting cancer cells with ion beams, helium’s unique physical properties make it increasingly vital to our present and our future.

Global reserves of helium are generally located in the United States, Russia, Qatar, Algeria, and Iran, but new discoveries show significant potential in Western Canada. North American Helium is at the forefront of advancing the development of significant helium production in Saskatchewan that will be needed in North America and potentially worldwide.