After previously announcing vast helium shortage-induced cutbacks, a number of industrial gas companies in Japan have softened their stance on reduced helium deliveries in the fourth quarter of 2007 and are now planning to trim deliveries by only 10%, rather than 20-30%.

Amid rising demand, slowing production and tightening supplies it had earlier been reported that cutbacks in helium, used to make semiconductors and flat panel TV’s, were due and would impede production of various electronic devices by the end of the year.

Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corp. was reported to have already warned customers it would shut off nearly a third of supplies, while Iwatani International Corp. and Air Liquide Japan were also believed to be planning significant cutbacks in deliveries.

Now however, companies are pulling back on such aggressive plans and are only anticipating cutbacks of around 10% compared to the 20-30% previously expected.

The move comes amid efforts in the US to delay work on facilities that would have tightened global supplies. Exxon Corp. now also plans to overhaul its ageing gas field infrastructure in the space of just 2 weeks rather than a month-long period which would have contributed to the shortage, while the US government is delaying plans to upgrade helium stockpile facilities until next spring.

Japan represents around 8% of the annual global demand for helium, with the top 4 companies supplying most of the volume an the gas providers now reaching basic agreements with chipmaker customers to meet nearly all their needs throughout the year’s end. Cutbacks are due to be made in a number of other areas of helium demand such as balloons and blimps.

Contributing to the growing demand for helium are the announcements that Global Gases Dubai has started-up and commissioned its new Helium Transfill Facility in Singapore and a joint venture project between Air Products and Matheson Tri-Gas will build and operate a new liquid helium plant in the US, scheduled to commence in 2009.