Seen as the next step in taking the helium market toward stability, Air Liquide has recently started up the world’s largest helium purification and liquefaction unit, Qatar II.

The turnkey project at Ras Laffan Industrial City, Qatar boasts a unit production capacity of approximately 38 million cubic meters of helium per year.

The combined production capacity of this new unit and the existing unit on this site will be approximately 58 million cubic meters per year – making Qatar the world’s second largest producer of helium with 25 percent of current global production

The helium liquefier is operated by RasGas. Under a long-term agreement with RasGas and Qatargas, Air Liquide will purchase 50 percent of the helium volumes produced by this new unit and the existing one.

Linde Gases has already shipped the first container from this newest of helium sources, having itself secured long-term rights to 30 percent of the output from the plant.

Start-up of the Qatar II plant marks the next step toward helium market stability. World demand for helium has remained robust in the last 10 years, while helium is scarce worldwide.

Hamad Rashid Al Mohannadi, RasGas CEO and vice-chairman of Qatar Petroleum (QP) said, “The Helium 2 plant, which broke ground in May 2010, is the second helium project to be built in Qatar, and we are very pleased to report that in over five million man hours worked to complete this project, we have maintained a lost time incident rate (LTIR) of zero.”

François Darchis, senior vice-president of Air Liquide Group and a member of the Executive Committee, commented, “I would like to thank RasGas for its trust, as well as the many dedicated people who have inspired and contributed to the technological prowess required to bring this helium production project in Qatar to where it is today.”

“Air Liquide is proud to have played a role in this success, which significantly strengthens our worldwide helium supply position as well as our leadership in the Middle East.”