Structural changes: Eroding the global helium oligopoly


I have worked in a variety of commercial roles in the global helium business for the last 41 years.

When I joined BOC Gases’ helium business in January 1983, the sector was a highly concentrated global oligopoly dominated by three of the world’s leading industrial gas companies, namely Air Products and Chemicals, BOC Gases and the Linde division of Union Carbide. Collectively, these three companies controlled greater than 85% of the world’s helium supply at the source, via captive production or long-term contracts with producers.

Over time, other leading gas companies, including Air Liquide, Linde AG, the Matheson Gas subsidiary of Nippon Sanso Holdings, the Messer Group and Iwatani have gained direct access to helium supply and joined the ranks of the helium majors. As a result of multiple mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, the global helium business now consists of five or six global majors, depending on where you draw the line to be considered one of those majors.

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