The business of helium: The past, present and future


From time to time, helium has received increased visibility in the B2B press due to product shortages. However, over the last 3-5 years the press has become more mainstream due to the same supply-demand challenges, as well as the effects on critical end markets such as semiconductor chip manufacturing, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or the aerospace industry.

For years this was never the case for helium, in fact it was essentially unknown before the twentieth century. Although it was first detected during a solar eclipse in the late 1860s, it was not until the early 1900s that it started garnering more interest, when it was found in natural gas wells in the US.

From that point forward, helium’s profile gradually grew as it became more plentiful and more applications for this unique gas were developed such as lifting gas, leak detection, shield arc welding, and leveraging the cryogenic properties of liquid helium for superconducting and healthcare applications such as MRI. Consequently, other regions of the world with helium-rich natural gas wells began producing helium including Poland, Algeria, Qatar, Russia, Australia, and others.

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