Further to plans first announced in June earlier this year, a new liquid and gaseous helium transfilling station has been inaugurated at the Ras Laffan Support Services Area in northeast Qatar.
The inauguration follows the official opening of the Qatar II (Helium 2) helium plant by RasGas, also last week.
Operated under the auspices of Gulf Helium Services, a 51/25/24 joint venture between Buzwair Gases, Iwatani Corporation and LNG Japan Corporation, the new facility enables liquid helium sourced from RasGas’ nearby ‘Helium 2’ plant to be more widely distributed both within Qatar and around the world.
The site features ISO container logistics and maintenance facilities – and is also the first helium transfill facility in Qatar.
The nearby Helium 2 facility is operated by Air Liquide and extracts helium from feedgas provided by adjacent LNG facilities that process natural gas from Qatar’s North Field (these LNG facilities are some of the largest in the world).
The helium product is allocated 50/30/20 between Air Liquide, Linde and Iwatani.
Says Akiji Makino, Chairman and CEO of Iwatani Corporation, “Our priority has been to diversify our sources and respond to increased market demand. Importing helium from Qatar is not only significant for our company but for the development of Japanese industry.”
Iwatani is in fact the first Asian Company to acquire rights to purchase helium directly from Qatar, and will be provided with some 260 million scfd (8 million Nm3) of helium per year. In order to transport this to end-markets in Japan and other Asian countries, Iwatani needed logistical support close to the helium source in order to fill, maintain and expedite ISO containers from source to end-user markets – hence the new facility within the Ras Laffan Support Services Area.
From Ras Laffan, liquid helium ISO containers are transported to and from the Jebel Ali Port within the Jebel Ali Free Zone in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – an approximately three-day journey either way. From Jebel Ali, the ISO containers are distributed to Asia and beyond.
Beyond facilitating logistical support for bulk liquefied helium, the Gulf Helium Services project also handles compressed and dewar quantities of helium for distribution in markets closer to home.
In particular, the new high-tech facility is able to process ultra high purity helium (99.9999%) and fill cylinders at up to 300 bar of pressure.
Buzwair Gases, as a long-time established provider of industrial, specialty and medical gases in the Qatari marketplace, was identified early on as an ideal partner with which to set up an effective and competitive logistics chain.
As the lead party in the joint venture, the new facility in Ras Laffan represents an important step in Buzwair’s further expansion in Qatar and the Middle East region more generally – developing its product range and expanding its range of services significantly.
Frank Brunsdon, General Manager of Buzwair Industrial Gases Factories, commented, “This new facility in Ras Laffan is testament to Buzwair’s long-term growth strategy and represents a continuation of our commitment to providing existing and future customers with the resources and technical expertise to support long-term growth, both within Qatar and regional markets.”