Amidst the media maelstrom concerning helium shortages and future security of supply in the market, Matheson has moved to act as a strategic partner to Russia’s Gazprom.

The two companies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) setting out the basis for their future cooperation in the development of Gazprom’s substantial helium reserves in Eastern Siberia.

The company has plans to implement a large-scale helium project in Russia’s Far East with start-up planned for 2018, as vocalized at gasworld’s South East Asia conference in Singapore last summer.

According to its plans, the initial capacity of the new helium plant will be 60 mcma with the possibility for significant expansion: according to the development program for the new natural gas fields in Eastern Siberia, approved by the Russian Government, available natural gas stream will make possible annual production of up to 220mcm of helium from 2020.

These plans are built upon the large underground reserves of helium in the enormous natural gas fields in Irkutsk and Yakutia regions (Kovykta and Chayanda) that have not yet been developed, labelled the ‘East Siberian Gas Programme’.

The new MoU was signed by Alexander Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Management Committee of Gazprom JSC and Director General of Gazprom export LLC, and Phil Kornbluth, executive vice-president, International & Helium for Matheson.

With the new agreement, Matheson intends to act as a strategic partner to Gazprom – not only as an off-taker of significant volumes of helium from the projects, but also as a provider of helium industry knowledge and expertise.

The two companies have agreed to explore ways in which they may establish long-term cooperation in areas such as marketing and logistics, helium production and technology. Matheson’s parent company, TNSC, is the leading industrial gases company in Japan and the largest supplier of helium to the Japanese market; a market ideally situated for supply from the Russian Far East.

Kornbluth said of the MoU, “Matheson and Taiyo Nippon Sanso are excited about the prospects of working with Gazprom to commercialize their Eastern Siberian helium reserves. Gazprom’s plant should be well positioned to supply China, Japan, other Asian markets and, in time, the US. We look forward to a long, mutually beneficial relationship with Gazprom Group.”

Medvedev added, “The new Helium project in the East Siberia calls for advanced engineering, marketing and logistics solutions that will allow the rational use of this strategic resource and its effective distribution in the global markets. We hope that the partnership with Matheson will allow us to implement our strategic goals.”