After The Linde Group’s BOC announced that construction had commenced on its helium plant in Darwin, Australia in a ground-breaking ceremony, Linde itself has delivered an update on the project and confirmed construction is underway.

The facility will be Australia’s first helium plant, located in the Northern Territory and also the first such plant in the southern hemisphere, supplying all of Australia’s domestic helium needs as well providing capacity for export to New Zealand and Asian markets.

Linde’s Darwin plant, through its Australian BOC subsidiary, will produce around 150 million cubic feet per year of helium – enough to meet 3% of the world’s helium demand.
BOC had revealed that a ground-breaking ceremony with the Northern Territory Minister for Infrastructure and Transport had taken place and work was underway with the project, with Linde now confirming this and stressing the significance of the plant.

When operational in July 2009 as expected, its production will replace helium currently coming to Australia from the US and Middle East. The plant will be the world’s first new helium source in three years.

Steve Penn, Head of global Helium for Linde, commented, “Helium is produced at a small number of sources around the world and is shipped globally. Helium demand has increased most in Asia, with steady demand growth forecasted for at least the next five years.”

“With global supply expected to remain tight for the foreseeable future, having a new Asia-Pacific helium source is good news not only for this region but for the entire world.”

As a non-renewable resource, helium is extracted from natural gas and Linde has a long-term contract with the Darwin liquefied natural gas plant to extract, purify and liquefy the helium for shipment to customers.

Linde operates one of the world’s largest helium refining facilities in Otis, Kansas and also has access to helium produced from other US sources as well as from Poland, Russia, Algeria and Qatar. From these production facilities, Linde transports the liquid helium to a worldwide network of local distribution facilities.