The importance of ‘green helium’ and thinking beyond ‘the next project’


Over the last decade, spanning high-profile Helium Shortages 3.0 and more recently 4.0, the world has been alerted to the vulnerabilities of the global helium supply chain. While mega projects in Qatar and Russia, to name just two, have dominated headlines and courted the attention of onlookers, we’ve also seen the rise of a sustained movement towards exploration of both smaller and non-hydrocarbon-based sources.

Exploration companies are stepping up efforts to increase the portfolio of smaller helium sources located in North America in particular, chief among them being North American Helium Inc. (NAH). The Canada-based company presides over the $32m Battle Creek helium production plant near Consul, Saskatchewan, the largest helium purification facility in Canada, as well as other facilities in Cypress, Mankota, Battle Creek South, and Eastend, also in the country’s Southwestern region.

The Battle Creek plant started operations in first-half 2021, not only ahead of schedule but also under budget. NAH has built on that success in 2022 and will start 2023 with five plants running with total productive capacity of approximately 110 million cubic feet per year (MMcf/y). More than that, however, it is a signal of intent in ‘green helium’ and the movement away from a traditional centralisation of helium supply.

NAH and its Chairman and CEO Nick Snyder believe it is vital to develop new sustainable sources of helium supply in the US and Canada that are capable of reliable long-term production. Snyder is also firm in his conviction that the upstream helium industry in North America needs to move away from the mentality of individual projects and start operating at a larger scale to continuously add new supply in order to replace diminishing production from the US BLM system.

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