BOC has announced plans to build a new liquid helium plant in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. The new facility will be the first helium plant in Australia and will be one of only 15 operating in the world when it commences production in 2007.

The helium produced by the Darwin facility will supply domestic Australian demand as well as export customers located in New Zealand and Asian Markets.

Under a long-term contract with Darwin LNG, BOC will extract the helium from the vent stream of the Darwin liquefied natural gas plant. The helium will be purified, liquefied and filled into specialised ISO containers for shipment to market.

Pending the required government and regulatory approvals, construction of BOC’s helium plant, located at Wickham Point and adjacent to Darwin LNG’s facility, will begin in mid-2006. When the helium plant reaches full production, it will have a capacity of 150 million cubic feet per year and will supply between 2 and 3 per cent of the world’s helium demand.

Graham Smith, managing director of Industrial and Special Products for BOC in the South Pacific, said it would help strengthen their position in the Australian market, “Australia currently imports all of the helium that it requires primarily from US sources. The helium produced at Darwin will improve our customers’ reliability of supply and enable us to solidify our leading position in the Australian market.”

Phil Kornbluth, Vice president of helium and rare gases for BOC said, “The investment in Darwin is another in a series of steps BOC has taken recently to strengthen our global supply position and prepare for the eventual decline of US sources.”

The Darwin Plant is expected to produce around 3.1 million metric tons of liquefied natural gas a year once it becomes fully operational in early 2006.

The owners of Darwin LNG include ConocoPhillips, ENI, Santos, INPEX, Tokyo Electric and Tokyo Gas.