With the US House of Representatives unanimously backing measures that will re-authorise the Federal Helium Program, the news has been met with ‘applause’ from some of the gas industry’s biggest players.

The House recently passed the resolution that would suspend its procedural rules and adopt the Senate version of legislation, to thereby re-authorise the Federal Helium Program. The vote was unanimously in favour at 367 - 0.

The BLM program will now continue to offer helium from the stored reserves, albeit under different terms, until it reaches the strategic level of 3 BSCF, at which time the BLM will only sell to Federal Helium Users.

Gasworld understands there is still plenty to be done in terms of thrashing out the finer terms of the legislative language, but for the time being the passing of resolution has drawn wide commendation.

Air Products issued a statement in which it applauded President Barack Obama and members of both the US Senate and House of Representatives for their work in successfully passing this ‘vital legislation’.

“While there currently exists a severe helium supply shortage that will unfortunately continue for some time, Congress’ actions have averted a further supply crisis that would have been unprecedented,” said John Van Sloun, General Manager Worldwide Helium at Air Products. “It is only appropriate that we recognise Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee and US Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) of the House Natural Resources Committee for developing this pragmatic legislation.”

“This legislation helps to stabilise helium markets and prevent disruptions in helium supply. It will ensure security of supply for our customers in North America now that the Federal Helium Reserve will have the funding to continue its operations”

Joe Horn, Linde

Van Sloun added, “Air Products is especially grateful for the tireless efforts of US Congressman Charlie Dent, who became a recognised leader on the helium issue in the House, and Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, both of whom were instrumental in the passing of the bill.”

Linde North America and Praxair Inc. were also quick to praise the President, the House and the Senate for their actions.

Linde’s Global Head of Bulk, Helium and Rare Gases, Joe Horn said, “This legislation helps to stabilise helium markets and prevent disruptions in helium supply. It will ensure security of supply for our customers in North America now that the Federal Helium Reserve, operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), will have the funding to continue its operations, which supply Linde’s Otis, Kansas, plant with a significant volume of helium.”

Nick Haines

Nick Haines, Linde’s Head of Helium Source Development (left), added, “Continuation of the programme is critically important to the economy because it injects market forces into the helium program, while at the same time maintaining the stability and certainty that a variety of industries depend on.”

“Phasing in the auction will ensure that the government receives fair market prices for helium while preventing market disruptions in existing supply chains. Gradually phasing in an auction of the federal helium will attract bidders, will establish a market price, and, just as importantly, will help discourage hoarding, speculation, and other disruptive behaviors that occur in unpredictable markets.”

The continuation of the BLM supply is considered essential in the face of ongoing global helium shortages, and Dr. Amer Akhras, Praxair’s General Manager, Helium and Rare Gases, simply said, “The legislation passed by Congress secures the continued operation of the reserve, maintains access to a significant percentage of the world’s helium supply and ensures Praxair’s continued reliable delivery of helium to customers.”

“We thank all of the members of the House and Senate who have worked diligently alongside helium refiners, distributors and end-users to pass this critical legislation.”

While pleased with the BLM supply continuation, Air Products cautioned that the helium shortage still remains.

Walter L. Nelson

Walter Nelson, Director of Helium Sourcing at Air Products (left), commented on the news, “There will be no increase in the amount of helium molecules being produced by the BLM as a result of this legislation. The legislation maintains the status quo in terms of helium availability.”

“However, we are just pleased that the legislation’s passing prevented a difficult supply situation from getting any worse.”