Helium: Qatar blockade and impact on the US distributor


Saudi Arabia and its allies (UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen, and the Maldives) imposed a land and sea blockade on Qatar that began June 5 and was then complicated by the June 23 list of 13 demands to Qatar as the price for lifting the trade and diplomatic embargo of the country.

This was a marked escalation of the Gulf’s worst diplomatic dispute in decades, threatening the global access to Qatar’s helium, which supplies about 30% of the world’s helium demand. End-users and distributors of helium payed close attention and distinctly recalled the allocations and sharply rising prices due to the helium supply shortage of 2012 and 2013, prior to the Qatar 2 plant coming on-stream.

Many helium users are better positioned to cope with shortages this time around because they installed recycling equipment, instituted conservation programs, or were able to substitute with other gases like argon in welding for their applications. All of which resulted in current helium demand being relatively flat in the US, while still growing in Asia.

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