2009 Worldwide Helium Market Update


During 2006 and 2007, worldwide helium supply was very tightly balanced with demand and remained that way for the first three quarters of 2008.

The supply/demand balance was struck with ExxonMobil, the largest private supplier of helium in the world, producing at close to capacity, and the RasGas (Qatar) helium plant (on-stream in 2006) coming up to higher production rates.

In addition, the withdrawal of crude helium from the US Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Cliffside, TX reserve was occurring at planned rates during this time.

At the start of the fourth quarter of 2008, the supply of helium was expected to become much tighter and continue to be tight into 2009, with worldwide demand continuing to increase in the face of planned maintenance shutdowns. However, late in 2008, the global economy began to slide sharply, which weakened demand in helium-using markets, particularly the rapidly declining electronics and manufacturing sectors. By the first quarter of 2009, helium production appeared to be exceeding global demand by as much as ten percent. The BLM pipeline activity reports appear to reflect this trend.

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