Industrial gas companies in Japan are planning to cut helium gas supplies by as much as 30% from October, following significant shortages from US suppliers including Praxair among others.

In a move that could have a detrimental impact on semiconductor manufacture and electronics production in the region, Japan’s biggest helium gas companies Iwatani International Corp and Taiyo Nippon Sanso have announced they are in talks with clients about reducing supply following a production slowdown in the US.

Most of the helium used in Japan is supplied by the US and difficulties and renovations at refinery facilities are threatening to jeopardise this supply.

Iwatani International has announced it plans to cut its helium gas supply to clients by 10-20% on average, from October. This comes as its supplier, Praxair Inc, has revealed plans to begin a large scale renovation project at its gas well in the US and is likely to affect Iwatani’s semiconductor and electronics production customers.

Taiyo Nippon Sanso has also started to inform its clients that it may have to reduce its helium supply following problem at its stateside supplier’s refinery facilities. While the company has not revealed how extensive its reduction plans are, it is thought that these are likely to continue through to the end of the year and the cuts could be as much as 30% on average after a short supply cut by supplier Exxon Mobil Corp.

Japan’s total helium gas sales came to 10.2million cubic metres in 2006, up 20% from the previous year according to the Japan Industrial Gases Association.