The second day of sessions is well underway at gasworld’s Helium Super Summit, at which 270 delegates have gathered for the return of our in-person events.
Yesterday, under the themes The Big Picture and Sources and Supply, we heard from Air Products, the Bureau of Land Management, ExxonMobil, Kornbluth Helium Consulting and more about how to helium markets both stand today and are projected to look like in the future.
Today, however, kicking sessions off was Michael Corbett, Managing Partner of Linx Consulting, who told delegated that, by 2030 the semiconductor industry is predicted to be a one trillion-dollar industry.
Speaking on the market growth, Corbett said, “2021 was a record year for the semiconductor industry, and Covid-19 has had a tremendous impact on the industry. Strong growth in virtual connectivity has led to a global chip shortage with large economic impacts.”
Of course, as well as growth in demand, the complexity and requirements for semiconductors has continued to grow. On this, Corbett said, “Moore’s Law has driven increase functionality and new applications. However, it has also driven increased complexity in making a chip.”
“Helium demand in the semiconductor segment has strong correlation with key vacuum processes, and helium intensity is increasing with the most advanced semiconductor devices.”
A shift in helium demand for MRI scans
Next, focus shifted again, and this time MRI was the key topic. As gasworld has written previously, the unique cooling properties of helium form the backbone of MRI technology, with niobium filament wire wound and immersed in liquid helium to create a superconductive coil.
When the subject of a small electrical current being passed through it, this coil creates an extremely powerful magnetic field and superconducting magnet at the heart of the MRI system.
This conventional make-up of the MRI system has tended to consume significant quantities of liquid helium, as the ultimate supercooling fluid, rendering it the largest of end-user applications for the global helium business.
Just as MRI machine technologies have evolved and shrunk in size through more recent years, so too has the level of liquid helium required, while gradual. On this topic, Nick Haines, Head of Helium at Messer Americas, said, “Superconductivity enables extremely high levels of current to generate high magnetic fields, achieved with a bath of liquid helium around the magnet coils.”
“The MRI segment has been a significant portion of helium demand since the first usage of liquid helium to create superconductors.”
Speaking on demand at present, Haines explained that small MRI helium reservoirs have further reduced demand.
“Magnet manufacturers have installed helium recovery and reliquefication systems, and this has reduced demand by hundreds of mmscf/year,” he told delegates.
Moving onto the trends in the market, Haines said that Messer predicts that approximately 5,000 MRI units are installed annually.
On this, he said, “Most developed economies are only installing ‘4K’ MRI’s largely as a replacement, however, some deploying of older systems are still happening in developing countries.”
How Air Liquide has been contributing to the space industry
“Air Liquide sees as the possible market evolution for the space industry to grow from $450bn in 2020 to $1,000bn in 2040.”
That’s what Antonie Mazas, General Manager of Air Liquide Global Helium, told Helium Super Summit attendees this morning when he highlighted how the industrial gas giant has been contributing to the space industry.
Air Liquide has 50 years of experience in the space industry and is involved in a number of space programmes, including Ariane 5, a European heavy-lift space launch vehicle developed and operated by Arianespace for the European Space Agency (ESA)
“Air Liquide has designed andmanufactured the liquid oxygen tank and helium sphere for the Ariane 5 programme.” He continued, “We [Air Liquide] also developed and installed cryogenic lines and a propellant management device and the helium sphere for Ariane 6.”
Focusing on the Ariane 5, Mazas said, “Supercritical helium tanks have been fitted on Ariane 5 since its first launch in 1996, demonstrating an exceptional track record.”
As well as the ESA projects, Air Liquide is also actively in multiple other space exploration projects, including Lampoldshausen and Tanegashima.
“More recently, Air Liquide has been developing a new Cryocooler product line for European Observation missions,” Mazas told delegates.
Whilst looking ahead, Mazas identified the exponential need for data and connectivity, telecommunications and internet infrastructure, earth observation, space-based deference, Moon and Mars exploration and private programmes as key drivers for the market.
The Chinese helium market
During the session Tom Deng, Guanggang Gases & Energy, virtually provided an overview of the Chinese helium market, and said that the China domestic helium production is about one million cubic meters annually with the expectation the 2022 market will grow by 3-5%.
Deng said, “China has 1.1 billion cubic meters helium resource. “We believe a huge amount of helium will go from Amur (Gazprom, in Russia) to China in 2022.”
“Global helium production in 2020 decreased by 13% and China import volume reduced by 7%,” Deng told attendees. That being said, he projected that the helium market will grow by 3-5%.”
“Demand from manufacturers bounced back in 2021 and we expect 20% growth over 2021/2022.”
“We have seen that the pandemic has made the electronic industry thrive.”
Stay up-to-date with all the latest news, views and developments at the Helium Super Summit via the gasworld website, updated throughout the event.
gasworld will also be sharing live updates during the Summits, which you can follow on twitter and LinkedIn using the hashtag #GWHOUSTON21