Helium expert Phil Kornbluth told the GAWDA (Gases and Welders Distributors Association) 2019 Annual Convention that the current helium shortage should begin to ease late next year.
Kornbluth, President of Kornbluth Helium Consulting and a member of the gasworld Editorial Board, updated the Annual Convention, which had a record 903 attendees, on the latest global helium shortage – known as Helium Shortage 3.0 – here at the Marriott Marquis, Washington, D.C.
“I’m pretty confident the worst is over of this shortage barring a major outage in Qatar,” Kornbluth told the Annual Convention.”
“The worst of the shortage should be over and it’s about a 10% shortage right now. The helium shortage is going to last until the end of this year and through all or most of 2020. But it will be a lesser shortage.”
The shortage should ease in 2020 due to projects in Arzew, Algeria (425 mmcf/2020 Q3), Gazprom’s Amur Project in Russia (700 mmcf/2021 Q2) and Qatar (425 mmcf/2020 Q3).
Kornbluth, who said the current shortage started in February 2018 when two of the five majors started allocating supply, believes a global economic slowdown could hasten the end of the current helium shortage.
“The shortage could end sooner if we have a global recession,” Kornbluth said.
“I do feel the worst is behind us. By the end of next year, I would say it will be a mild shortage, or tight balance. Long term is more positive. Over supply seems more likely than shortage after Gazprom enters the market. Gazprom has the potential to produce 7.9 bcf from the Power of Siberia Pipeline’s throughput. The world is not running out of helium – that’s not a solid argument.”
“Production from Gazprom’s Amur Project should finally bring the shortage to an end in 2021. The US share of world supply will continue to decline and an increasing portion of the world supply will involve political risk.”
Kornbluth also stressed that the shortage is not a result of increased demand, and said distributors should not worry about supplies ever running out.
“Helium demand ow is lower than it was in 2011,” Kornbluth said.
“What we saw after the last shotage in 2012 was at least 10% of the world’s helium demand went away. MRI industry put in recycling and MRI scanners have become a lot more efficient. There has been substitution in welding too. The shortage is not about demand growth.”
Tuesday’s session also saw Abydee Butler Moore, of Butler Gas, officially introduced as GAWDA President for 2019-2020, with her husband Ryan and two-year-old daughter Ivy also on stage for the ceremony.
Butler Moore, daughter of former GAWDA President Jack Butler, explained her “2020 vision” and some changes to the Spring Management Conference (JW Marriott Austin, in Austin, Texas, on April 5-7) and Annual Convention (JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona on September 25-28).
“I was raised with the gas industry in my blood,” Butler Moore told attendees at the Annual Convention.
“GAWDA really needs you and we want more engagement. I deeply respect the traditions of GAWDA and we have to innovate and make changes so we evolve as an industry. Some of the those changes you see in Austin is we will change how we do committees. The other big change is there are going to be four learning opportunities.”
Jeff Deckrow, Hypertherm Vice-President, Americas received the 2019 GAWDA Award of Excellence for his passion for the industry and involvement with organisations such as GAWDA. It was the first time the award was given out since 2013.
The Compressed Gas Association (CGA) announced its CGA and GAWDA Distributor Safety Awards - Willard C. Starcher, Inc. and S.J. Smith Co., Inc - and WEMCO named Coastal Welding as its winner of the 2019 Excellence in Welding Award.
Also confirmed were details of the 2022 Spring Management Conference (JW Marriott Indianapolis in Indianapolis, on 3rd to 5th April) and the 2022 Annual Convention (Marriott Marquis, San Diego, California on 5th to 8th October).
Comedian Don McMillan also entertained attendees during the Tuesday morning session.
There were 208 distributors from 88 member companies and 365 suppliers from 169 member companies at the Annual Convention, which closed with a farewell gala at the National Building Museum - site of many presidential inaugural balls - on Tuesday evening.