Since the 1960s, red helium filled balloons have been released by Nebraska Cornhuskers fans to celebrate the first touchdown of a home game, but this long-standing traditional is now being cut due to difficulties related to helium supply.

That’s the message Trev Alberts, Nebraska Athletic Director told listeners of his radio show on Monday (23rd May) as he explained that, due to challenged supply, helium acquired by the university is better used for other applications.

Speaking on his show, Alberts said, “Acquiring helium in today’s day and age, given that some of the production is really challenged, is really hard to get. So we’ve been asked by the university that the helium we are getting as a university, we need to use for medical purposes.”

To try and keep the celebrations alive during home matches, however, Alberts said the athletics department is looking to come up with an alternative way to keep celebrations at a high during home games.

Nebraska’s decision to cut the red balloons follows a number of uncertainties surrounding the helium market as a result of the Russia and Ukraine crisis, as well as other factors that have caused great strains to the market.

As gasworld reported earlier this year, ahead of the Russia and Ukraine crisis, the geographic needle of global helium supply had been due to shift eastwards as a result of Gazprom’s Amur plant coming on-stream in Eastern Siberia.

Russia’s emerging helium market had been expected to see its production jump from just 3% in 2021 to 26% by 2025, in the context of simultaneously decreasing (traditional) North American production.

However, this outlook was shaken up as explosions and fires at the Amur plant in January had already taken its nascent supply off the table for the foreseeable future and, combined with other factors, triggered the latest big market crunch, Helium Shortage 4.0.

Adding to this, of course, is now the ongoing war, which has led to many companies placing sanctions on Russia and wanting to cut its reliance on supplies from the Eastern European country in the future. 

Looking at what’s to come for the market, Phil Kornbluth, President of Kornbluth Helium Consulting, earlier this month told gasworld that after a series of events that had negative implications for helium supply since the beginning of 2022, there have been several recent developments that bode well for improved supply during the second half of 2022. 

Read more: Helium supply outlook more optimistic for second half of 2022

Some of the positive helium news coming out of the US, identified by Kornbluth, include the cancellation of ExxonMobil’s planned maintenance outage at their Shute Creek, Wyoming plant which is the largest US source and accounts for greater than 20% of global supply and that Air Products is close to completing their Arzew Expansion Project, which would tie-in feed gas from the GL1Z and GL3Z LNG plants to the existing helium plant.

If factors such as this and those similar are going to make boost the helium market, it could mean that the red balloon tradition may be back sooner than expected.