Summary

  • Industrial gases business and end-users gather to discuss helium supply
  • Speakers from Air Products, Air Liquide, Linde dominate morning
  • Siemens, Gazprom set to take the stage from 1410
  • US, Qatar, Russia on agenda throughout

 

0800

Hello and welcome to the Global Helium Summit, which is about to get underway at the Royal Garden Hotel in West London, UK.

Delegates have been arriving throughout the last 24 hours and indeed, right up to the minute at the registration desk this morning.

0805

The fact that attendees from more than 15 countries have gathered here today, for what is the first-ever such event, demonstrates the global scale of this challenge. This is a topic that affects so many, from so far and wide.

We have some of the biggest names in cryogenics and science here today in London, including Oxford Instruments, CERN, STFC and Siemens Magnet Technology.

There are consultants, researchers, advisors and a professor, among the many directors, CEO’s, project managers and decision-makers mingling here in the lobby today.

It’s a veritable who’s who of science, technology and endeavor.

0810

The presence of CERN alone underlines the gravitas of the event – the summit is an assembly not only of the gases industry but a meeting of minds for the scientific community as a whole.

If this diverse and highly respected meeting of minds gives the summit significance, then this calibre is reflected in the esteemed panel of speakers sharing their insights.

*Hit the refresh button on your browser, or F5 on Windows, to stay up-to-date with the latest from the Global Helium Summit.

0830

A reminder, on the agenda today will be:

  • Walter L. Nelson, Air Products
  • Nick Haines, Linde Gas
  • Gerard Tan, Air Liquide
  • Phil Kornbluth, Global Gases
  • Martin Woodhouse, Cryo Diffusion
  • Yuliya Starostina, Iceblick
  • Dr. M’hamed Lakrimi, Siemens Magnet Technology
  • Gazprom
  • Richard Clarke, 4He Solutions
  • Peter Ward, The Airship Association

0840

The day will also conclude with a 45-minute open debate titled Potential Alternative Price Setting Mechanism to the BLM.

John Raquet, Spiritus Group and Publisher at gasworld, is officially opening the summit as we speak.

John Raquet, Spiritus Group, Helium Summit 2013

0845

John Raquet, Chairman’s opening comments:

“It’s a pleasure to kick-start today’s summit, this is the first summit we have organised. Since December 2007 we have been organising conferences all over the world, brining the gases industry together to discuss, debate and converse.”

“This is a departure from those conferences in that this is truly a summit, a one-day event and we decided to introduce the summit idea to address particular subjects, focus subjects, and what better than to address one of the hottest topics in the business - helium.”

“I believe this to be the first truly global gathering of the helium business.”

0850

Walter L. Nelson, Director of Helium Sourcing and Supply Chain at Air Products, is now on the summit stage discussing sustainable helium business solutions.

In May, Nelson was speaking at a US Senate Hearing to discuss the proposed Helium Stewardship Act of 2013 introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski.

Walter Nelson, Air Products, Helium Summit 2013

0855

Walter L. Nelson:

“Good morning everyone, I’d like to start first by thanking the gasworld team for organising this helium summit. Without question, 2013 is one of the most dynamic years for the helium business; 2013 will certainly be an interesting chapter for the global helium business.”

“It’s truly an honour to be here today, I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you about helium.”

“Let’s get started. Where does helium come from? Growing up we never had to think about helium, it was at the party store, in balloons and blimps. Helium is one of the most abundant resources in the planet, but in Earth it’s a rare commodity, it’s a rare gas, it only forms in certain locations deep below the surface of the earth.”

“Helium is a by-product of natural gas production; we don’t own the gas fields or the plants.”

“Helium is the indispensible element in the production if iPads and Phones, electronics devices, semiconductors, in balloons and airships, leak detection, science, and many other applications.”

“The global demand for helium today is currently limited by supply, and most users are currently limited by some restrictions in allocation. Global helium historical demand growth rates have been in the 3-4% rate per year, and future growth rates are predicted to be around the same, at 3-4%.”

0900

“Will we run out of helium in the future? At current rates of production, as well as predicted growth rates, these reserves could continue to supply us for years. However, this helium will only be produced as a by-product of natural gas production and these reserves will need to be exploited by energy companies.”

Nelson discusses new helium supply starting in 2013…

“What’s causing the current helium shortage? The current helium shortage in the market today is unprecedented. The current shortage began in early 2011 and we expect it to continue throughout 2013 and possibly into early 2014.”

Describes planned and unplanned outages, restricted allocations, disruptions in helium supply…

“We estimate that helium production worldwide was at 95% of capacity in 2012.”

0905

“How does US legislation impact global supply? As I testified before Congress, most of our customers consider helium a utility, it is indispensable to their operations. Just like power is indispensable to the steel companies, for example. These manufacturers don’t really need to know where the power plant operates, they just need to know that the light comes on when they flick the switch. Helium customers are the same – they just need to know that helium supply is there when they need it.”

Describes how he sees the Senate approach to future US Federal Helium supply as more feasible and logical to the House approach...

0909

“In conclusion, like fossil fuels, helium is a finite resource. But the reserves that we know of are enough to keep supplies going for years.”

“That said, this finite resource must be managed. Energy projects must maximise the production of helium as a by-product. End-users must take the steps necessary to recycle its use.”

Linde Gas’ Nick Haines will now succeed Nelson on the Summit stage.

Nick Haines, Linde Gas, Helium Summit 2013

0911

“Good morning ladies and gentleman. Thanks to gasworld for arranging this event, I’m glad to see that it’s so well attended by people from so many parts of the world – that’s a good sign for the helium industry.”

One of the things I’m asked most frequently is what’s going on with the US helium gas management. So, I’m going to talk about the US Federal Government Helium history.”

Haines gives a brief introduction to Linde and the importance of helium…

0916

“So why are we here? There’s been tremendous press coverage about the US regulatory issues that are under consideration, and there’s been talk about the potential Helium Cliff.”

“We talk about Amarillo as being the helium capital of the world, well maybe it is fading into the distance as those helium molecules are being depleted.”

“This pipeline has quite a lot of history to it. Helium was discovered and has been extracted from this field from as early as the 1920s. When you look at it from a regulatory perspective, the US Government decided that helium was a strategic mineral from as early as 1925. Going on close to 100 years, it’s a long time ago since they actually decided this.”

0918

Haines describes the regulatory history of the US Federal Helium Reserve from the 1920s through the 1960s and to toward present day, including the Helium Privitization Act (HPA) of 1996.

“In 1999 as a result of the HPA, the helium started flowing into the reserve and out of the reserve, and that was really the start of this resource being depleted.”

0925

Haines: “The Act didn’t really envisage what would happen if all of the debt was repaid by December 2014. The requirement of the new act in Congress will be required to mandate the management of future helium sales as well as the funding of the reserve maintenance.”

0933

Haines: “By December 2012 the Cliffside field started entering what we call its depletion phase; the flow rates started to decline.”

“The required investments that we see as being necessary going forward are field compression and as the flows decline potentially, modifications of the Helium Enrichment Unit, and in the absence of new legislation (upon the repayment by October this year) these investments will not occur either.”

0940

Haines compares the two proposed structures or drafts for future regulation of the US Federal Helium Reserve…

0942

Haines: “As an ongoing comparison, the House Bill is very complex…. The Senate bill has a much more relaxed and less complex structure…”

0942

Haines: “Complexity of administration is a concern with the House Bill.”

“Overall, our view is that the House Bill could be quite disruptive to the industry; the Senate Bill, with some revisions, could be workable.”

0943

Haines: “Ideally we expect the Senate Bill to be passed during the July-August timeframe. We have the summer break to deal with…we hope there will be approval by the President by October.”

0943

Haines: “So, the first thing is the legislation is concluded, the Senate Bill is passed, the final bill circulates and is approved by the President in early October, that’s the ideal situation. But what if it does happen? There is a chance that it will not get passed. Either we enter the helium sequester, or there are some other alternatives in the US.”

“The possibility for the Government to pass a continuum of operations for the next year. Another option is a possible amendment to the HPA. And there are some other funding mechanisms that could be looked at.”

0944

Haines: “There is still uncertainty and that will remain until the October timeframe, until hopefully we have a resolution.”

0944

Air Liquide’s Gerard Tan is due on stage in just a moment with the next keynote presentation.

Gerard Tan, Air Liquide, Helium Summit 2013

0945

Gerard Tan, Air Liquide:

“Thank you everybody for being here and sharing this moment with us, we are all very anxious and aware of the current helium shortage and the supply-demand imbalance.”

“As I mentioned already, this scarcity of helium started in 2011, through 2012 and through till now. The helium source(s) remains scarce, the demand for helium has been growing very steadily in the last few years, around 3-4% per year. That might seem very much, but when you look at the numbers, it’s quite significant. You are looking at 250-300 containers more, year after year.”

0950

Tan: “Qatar has had one of the largest helium supply since 2005…In 2010 Air Liquide announced that it had been awarded a second contract by RASGAS for the large turnkey helium plant construction to be installed at Ras Laffan; this new unit will be the largest in the world.”

“The combined production of the two sites is expected to reach 58 million cubic metres per year, making Qatar one of the largest producers of helium in the world. That could be around 25% of the production in the world. Qatar will contiunue to be the second-largest producer of helium in the worl, after the US.”

0952

Tan: “With the new capacity coming on-stream in Qatar, we should see an end to this current level of shortage in the global market. Nevertheless, we should not rest on our laurels.”

“A clear gap will come in 2020 when the reserves (in the US) are fully depleted. This means all stakeholders must fully focus on finding new reserves and resources for helium.”

0955

Tan: “We have seen that the demand for helium is systemically shifting, regionally. Although the US and Canada historically have taken the bulk of all helium available, in recent years the surge in demand has seen the demand move outside of the Americas. Today, up to 60% of the demand is outside of the Americas. This will of course also see Qatar as a helium source, located closer to the demand hubs.”

0958

Tan: “Good logistics and a flawless helium management and supply chain are the key factors for a balanced global helium market.”

1005

Applause for Gerard Tan as the first session of presentations comes to a close, and the floor opens for questions from the audience. The Q&A begins.

 

Phil Kornbluth, Global Gases, Helium Summit 2013

1006

And the first question comes from Global Gases’ Phil Kornbluth: Is there anything that the helium industry might have done differently to change the outcome of this legislative effort?

Walter L. Nelson responds:

“As Mr Hanines explains, the legislative process in the US is quire complex. The US Government normally requires a deadline to make a decision and I think they will make a decision as we get closer to that deadline in September/October.”

“Personally I don’t think that valve [US Federal Helium Reserve] will close…but they may not make the final decision until that deadline approaches.”

1007

Questions continue…

1030  COFFEE BREAK TIME

Seldom are such names and competitors all together in one room – let alone sharing the same stage. Such a gathering highlights the importance of both the subject and this event.

All of whom are currently enjoying a scheduled brief coffee break. A lot of fervent discussion appears to spill over from the Q&A panel and into the coffee and pastries…

1031

Becky Palmer, gasworld’s Conferences and Events Manager:

“[This is] the perfect start to the summit series of events for gasworld…”

1035  Helium brief

Japan’s The Gas Review (TGR) recently reported that the ongoing global helium shortages is inducing a variety of product strategies in the gas analysis market and even hampering the operational ratio of gas chromatography (GC) operations.

According to TGR, something of a strategy war appears to have been unfolding in the country’s laboratories and analyser markets, with contrasting product approaches becoming an issue among GC users.

1102

After a coffee break full of discourse, the conference is about to resume.

As a little reminder, hit the refresh button on your browser, or F5 on Windows, to stay up-to-date with the latest from the Global Helium Summit.

1104

Phil Kornbluth, formerly of Matheson and now of Global Gases, will get us underway…

Phil Kornbluth, Global Gases, Helium Summit 2013

1110

Kornbluth: “I just want to acknowledge a couple of people, as there are several people that have been around a lot longer than me.” Cites Peter Ward, Jane Hoffman, et al as resident long-standing experts in the helium business.

1115

Kornbluth: “So what was the business like in 1983 [30 years ago]. Well certainly almost all of the helium was produced in the US, there was just one non-US source of supply in Poland.”

“The BLM operated their own helium plant in Texas and they were a major factor in the gaseous helium market as they set the market price and that become the market indicator in price.”

“Three industrial gas companies controlled almost all of the non-BLM output, and those three companies are still major factors in he business in one way or antoher; Air Products, Linde and Airco-BOC which is now a part of Linde.”

1116

Kornbluth: “At the time helium demand was heavily skewed towards gas, there was a big cylinder market. It was more of a lab product, it was more a specialty gas and wasn’t a big part of the business at that point. And of course, MRI hadn’t fully taken off and been commercialised then.”

“So that’s a snapshot of where we were at back then. The commercialisation of MRI really drastically changed the business.”

1118

Kornbluth: “For those of us that were in business back then, we really rode the MRI growth; it was a high-growth business for the gases industry… It was a good time to be in the helium business. The transfer networks of all of the major suppliers really built out, we were putting in something like five transfills or more per year. Really MRI was the key driver for the build out of the world’s global helium network.”

“The next big event that I want to highlight was ExxonMobil entering the market in 1986, when it began production at Shute Creek in Wyoming and was the world’s largest helium plant. It was also the first large-scale production that wasn’t linked to the BLM pipeline. This was the first explosion of large-scale just-in-time deliveries.”

1120

Kornbluth: “Then Russia joined the party, in 1993 BOC and Air Products announced agreements to start taking supply from Russian companies CRYOR and Orenburggazprom and exporting it to Western Europe.”

“That was the first access to Russia’s immense reserves of helium-bearing natural gas.”

1121

Kornbluth: “Then the next big sep was when Algeria came along in 1995, a Sonatrach joint venuture with Air Products/Air Liquide and the first large-scale production outside of the US.”

1125

Kornbluth on the HPA: “What came along next was the Helium Privitizaton Act of 1996 (HPA). It set the process in motion for selling off the Federal Helium Stockpile in 2003.”

“It was an important event that was the precursor to the important events going on now.”

1130

“And then Qatar 1 came online in 2005, the second large-scale production capacity to come into the market outside of the US. And then Skikda, Algeria comes along (April 2007), another LNG plant and another example of a non-US plant coming into the equation.”

1135

Kornbluth: “The next event was when Darwin, Australia entered the market. That plant commenced operation in March 2010 and was the fourth LNG plant, keeping that theme with LNG going, and the sixth non-US resource.”

1135

Kornbluth on the market today: “So what’s happening in more recent years? You have this gradual decline of the BLM system and the Huguton field. Regular sales of crude helium commenced in 2003 and as the depletion of the Federal Stockpile built up, the system began to see less pressure in the field.”

“There have been other upsets in the global market, but one of the biggest factors has been the decreased helium availability through the BLM pipeline.”

“I expect the BLM pipeline to regain some of its ‘flywheel’ capability once Qatar II gets going.”

1140

Kornbluth: “So that’s a very important thing that has affected the industry for almost 10 years.”

“If there is new legislation, I do think that the price of crude helium from the Federal Reserve will rise, due to many market forces, the quantity of the crude helium available for sale on an annual basis will likely decline. I do believe that non-refiners will gain greater access to the Federal Stockpile, and I also believe there is a chance that little refiners will have less availability to the supply.”

“I do think that sales to commercial users [from the BLM reserve] will stop around 2020. Around that date, I think the BLM will no longer be a force in the commercial market.”

1145

“Qatar II is a big event, it’s another plant processing LNG waste gas, it will be the seventh non-US plant, it will be tied with ExxonMobil (Shute Creek plant) as the largest in the world, and it will have the impact of pushing US production back to the US.”

“If you look at a summary of the last 30 years, there were only seven plants in 1983 and there are now 16 or 17, there was only one non-US resource and there will soon be seven non-US plants, primary supplies have doubled, LNG truly has become a major part of the supply chain…and the MRI share of the market and is now around 20-30%.”

“It’s been an evolutionary change, but if you compare 1983 to 2013, it is a big change n the market.

1146

Kornbluth: “In terms of the future…the big events are very well known. Certainly you’ve got the three sources coming on between now and early 2014, you’re going to have this continual shortage or decline of the BLM system, the production link to the BLM system will consolidate, I think the BLM will be out of the commercial market by 2020, I think there will be 3-5 more liquid plants, and a trend that is important to companies is that more independents are likely to gain access to sources and it will become a more ‘open game’ that it has been historically.”

“It’s possible that the US will become an importer of helium, and I’m going to buck the trend a little bit with a personal opinion – I do believe that after the current shortages, the demand for helium coming out of the shortage will be less than it was coming into the shortage. I think people have become accustomed to the shortage, they have found alternatives, and I wouldn’t be surprised if helium demand was around 5% lower than it was going into the shortage. That’s just my personal view.”

1152

Kornbluth on the future: “Looking at it longer-term, it’s difficult to predict but I think that Russia [via Gazprom] could become the leading supplier [from 2020-2030], and the US, Qatar and Algeria will continue to be important sources of supply.”

“The big unknown is whether significant new applications for helium will emerge similar to MRI, fiber optics or semiconductors – look how much the market has changed in the last 30 years.”

1154

Cryo Diffusion’s Martin Woodhouse, a promotional table-top sponsor at the Global Helium Summit, follows Kornbluth in just a few moments time.

1157

Martin Woodhouse takes to the stage.

“Good morning ladies and gentleman. We’ve heard a lot this morning about the history and the development of the market and global supply chain, but now I would like to focus on vessel design and optimum performance for the end-user.”

Martin Woodhouse, Cryo Diffusion, Helium Summit 2013

1200

Woodhouse gives a short introduction to Cryo Diffusion and its relevance to the helium business…

1205

Woodhouse: “There’s been a lot of talk about the development at Ras Laffan and we’re very proud to be associated with that through our partnership with Air Liquide.”

Explains a little about the Cryo Diffusion technology deployed at the Ras Laffan site...

1205

“If we consider this huge amount of cooling energy that helium has, this has to be recovered.”

Explains how CryoDiffusion vessel technology can reduce losses and optimise performance for the end-user.

1217

In a last-minute and unforeseen change to the agenda, unfortunately Iceblick’s Yuliya Starostina could not make it to the summit due to visa delays.

So, from the presentation of Martin Woodhouse we move on into another Q&A session before breaking for lunch. It’s been an engaging morning of insight and debate, that’s for sure.

1230  LUNCH BREAK

After a progressive morning’s work, delegates and speakers adjourn for lunch. The conference will resume at 1400, chaired by Phil Kornbluth and opening with Dr. M’hamed Lakrimi of Siemens.

We will also have Gazprom, set to be a prominent player in the future global helium market, 4He Solutions and The Airship Association represented in the afternoon’s speaker line-up.

1240  Helium brief

Scientist wafer electronics

The application of helium is far reaching. One area we haven’t mentioned here yet is the electronics/semiconductor business. gasworld understands that the increasing diameter of wafers in the future will place greater demands on the use of helium.

When the 300mm wafer arrived, it placed greater emphasis on the heat extraction capacity of the cooling gases and, in turn, an increase in helium usage. Now, with a further wafer scale-up to 450mm expected in the coming years, this will drive larger vacuum chambers and even further cooling capacity – with the expectation that even more helium will be required as a result.

1345

Welcome back! After a lovely lunch break, the first-ever Global Helium Summit continues shortly - in around 15 minutes to be precise.

Again, as a reminder, hit the refresh button on your browser (or F5 on Windows) to stay up-to-date with the latest updates of this live feed from the Global Helium Summit.

Rob Cockerill portrait

Rob Cockerill is Editor of gasworld magazine.

1350

Lots of positive comments about the Summit from the sidelines, Linde Global Helium’s Dan Baciu among those informing me of his pleasure at the event so far.

It’s really great to see so many discussions taking place, so many cross-industry discussions and an infectiously positive mood.

1359

As delegates begin to pour back into the auditorium, it’s time to get eyes down and back to the action.

1402

A reminder of who’s coming up this afternoon - Chairman of the session is Phil Kornbluth, our opening speaker is Dr. M’hamed Lakrimi, and he will be followed by Gazprom.

1410

Dr. M’hamed Lakrimi, Siemens:

Dr Lakrimi, Siemens, Helium Summit 2013

“Thank you very much for the opportunity to give a presentation here.”

“We are an R&D site and we also manufacture more than 1300-1400 magnets that we ship around the world to OEMs. Another prestigious record for the company is that more than a third of the world;s installed MRI magnets have been developed, designed and manufactured at this site here [Siemens Magnet Technology in Oxford].”

1412

Lakrimi: “Let me tell you a few things about MRI…”

“An MRI procedure costs €1-2m per operation. There are more than 1000 people waiting in hospitals waiting for a [MRI] scan.”

“As a market it is worth €5bn per year and it is growing every year, driven by emerging healthcare systems, preventative care and more.”

“In terms of the installed base, North America leads the way, followed by Japan…”

“There are typically about 80 million MRI’s performed each year around the world. If you live in the US or Japan, there are typically around 40 MRI scanners per million population.”

MRI Scanner

1429

Mind-blowing explanation of the science and technology behind MRI magnets and scanners…

For example, did you know, that a 3T (Tesla) MRI magnet/system has 60,000 times the Earth’s magnetic field?

Lakrimi explains, in a very scientific manner, about the technical challenges of cooling down MRI machines and the average levels of consumption of liquid helium. For example, an MRI magnet could use 1500 litres of liquid helium for supercooling.

1435

Next up…Gazprom. The company will discuss Russian Helium Supply.

They have of course broken the first ground, of sorts, on the East Siberian Gas Programme recently. A membrane plant from CIS-based gas technology and equipment company Grasys recently began testing at the Kovykta gas field in Eastern Siberia.

The field is thought to represent the closest conditions in terms of technical and climatic characteristics to those of the Chayandin field in Yakutia, which Gazprom hopes to develop as a source of helium.

1440

The representative of Gazprom takes to the stage.

1442

Didier Lebout, Gazprom Marketing & Trading, gives a brief exploration of the company’s activities and its gas network, before turning to the East

1443

Didier Lebout, Gazprom Marketing & Trading:

“The company feels it is important to take part in an investment programme to develop the East Siberian Gas Programme.”

“As of last year, the management team of Gazprom has decided to proceed with the development of two new gas fields in Siberia.”

“You will see that we have a very large quantity of helium that is in the reserves [in East Siberia]. Gazprom should be able to produce 240 million cubic metres of helium per year…of course we do not intend to boldly produce that, we point out that this is the peak capacity projection.”

Gazprom, Helium Summit 2013

1451

Lebout: “We are confident to keep to the deadlines on this programme, clearly this programme could change the global picture of the helium business, so we are conscious of the possible role that Gazprom and Russia can play in this market. We are pleased and proud to be a part of this. It’s a big change, and we have to be prepared for that.”

1452

Lebout concludes: “Thank you and welcome to Eastern Siberia!”

1455

Richard Clarke, 4He Solutions, is now on stage.

1456

Clarke:

“The helium market upstream has been an area of interest for my colleagues and I for a few years now, and this has resulted in quite a few publications and a systems dynamics model of the upstream structure.”

“The structure of the market is very much dominated by two primary sources; the BLM reserve and raw helium that is coming from LNG fields and process plants.”

“But there are also other possible sources, including helium from the air.”

“Downstream of course it is much more the distribution area that we are interested in from the industrial gas companies.”

“It is truly a global commodity.”

Richard Clarke, 4He Solutions, Helium Summit 2013

1500

Clarke discusses fusion as a helium supply problem…and air separation as a possible market addition in the future…

“So we’ve been talking about helium from air to some extent, and while it is one of the most abundant resources, it is actually at a very low concentration.”

“The gases industry is advanced in separating and producing molecules from air. Maybe a percent or two of world helium in the decades to come could come from air separation.”

1504

Clarke touches upon the rise of shale gas in certain regions and while this is generally perceived to be a good thing, how it could also have a ‘disruptive’ impact on the helium market.

1507

Clarke:

“Initially it might look like having LNG export from the US is a good thing, and in many ways it is and could be seen as stimulating extraction of helium by-product, but what we have to remember here is that the natural gas market is potentially around a thousand times more valuable than the helium market. So it will be the natural gas market that will dictate what mixtures, what gases are produced and sold.”

“The market forces could prevent any potentially recoverable helium from actually being produced.”

1513

“The next big question is venting. Helium is co-produced, it piggybacks on to the natural gas operations and nearby we have a helium operation (liquefier and purifier) to produce the helium product. It is estimated today that half of the helium molecules unearthed today are vented and lost to the atmosphere.”

“This massive venting of upstream gas is part of the problem, if addressed this could potentially open up a new window for helium supply in the future.”

1515

“A key point for LNG producers to think about is to have the plans for helium at the start of any new natural gas operation, rather than thinking about it five years later.”

1516

Clarke points to certain natural gas fields/projects around the world and underlines how these could be maximised to produce helium, and even points to the Pearl GTL project in Qatar as a ‘low-hanging fruit’ possibility for helium processing and production.

1521

“…my conclusion is that today, about half of the available helium molecules are being vented – and there are many possible actions that could be undertaken to utilise the untapped unconventional resources of helium.”

1522

Ahead of the Q&A now unfolding, Chairman Phil Kornbluth adds that today, no-one has mentioned Iran. If the country re-engages industrially and politically, he suggests, then with its natural resources and LNG potential, Iran might also be considered a window of opportunity for future helium supply to add to the market.

Laptop electronics

1545  COFFEE BREAK

A coffee break brief now – the difficulty in procuring supply for end-users appeared to be confirmed by Vincent Grillo, Co-President of Cryofab, Inc., in a December 2012 comment for gasworld.

He explained, “We supply transport dewars for distribution and transfer lines for filling the MRI units. My comments would be limited to feedback from my customer base, which is mainly that they can’t get liquid to fulfill their requirements.”

“I have received requests from all over the world for dewars filled with liquid, hospitals, imaging centres and gas distributors. When following up on quotes to companies regarding dewars, the feedback has been that they can’t make the purchases if they can’t locate a proper source and long-term supply.”

BOC Balloon

Source: BOC

1615

Welcome back. As the session resumes, we will hear from Peter Ward of The Airships Association in just a few moments. An extensive Q&A panel will then unfold.

1616

Ward is discussing Airships, a New Generation – A Large Helium Requirement?

1625

Ward, a helium industry veteran and also an associate consultant for the Spiritus Group, takes centre stage.

1626

Ward: “One of the major problems facing cargo airship designers is the airship’s buoyancy. When an airship uses fuel, it loses weight and therefore increases its buoyancy. When an airship delivers cargo, it also loses weight and gains further buoyancy. So the area of buoyancy is an ongoing challenge.”

1630

The discussion focuses on hybrid airships and the variable buoyancy airship, of which there are apparently three companies working on this new concept.

As Ward explains, in this concept, helium is compressed and used to adjust the buoyancy of the airship. “It is all aerostatic lift.” Prototypes of this concept are currently in development, we understand.

Peter Ward, The Airship Association, Helium Summit 2013

1640

“The benefit of the variable buoyancy airship is that unlike the hybrid airship, it can have vertical take-off and landing and this makes it far more flexible in its use.”

[Ward demonstrates a schematic of a Russian-developed concept for a variable buoyancy airship]

1642

Ward questions whether the concept will really ‘take off’?

He describes the potential applications, which might include:

  • Passenger travel
  • Commercial point-to-point transport
  • Hardware shipping
  • Crane-type operations
  • Humanitarian aid and rescue
  • Airborne advertising, as with conventional airships.

Ward also describes the potential for helium supply en-route.

1650

As he talks delegates through the kind of helium volumes used and projected for future airship applications, Ward picks up on an earlier talking point in the Summit and questions, could the new generation of airships be the next major application/growth driver for helium demand?

1655 - A Helium Brief

Ahead of the conclusion of the Summit coming up, here’s another take on the market shortages.

In December 2012, Illinois-based Ability Engineering Technology (AET) noted an increase in the demand for purification technology. President Eugene Botsoe told gasworld, “We are seeing an increase in the request for purifiers used for the recycling and re-use of helium.”

“As a result of these inquiries, we anticipate an increase in demand for compressors and other support equipment such as oil removal, gas analysis and gas storage.”

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Dubai 2013 graphic

With the Global Helium Summit now coming to a unanimously successful close, much attention for regular gasworld conferences attendees now turns to the upcoming Middle East & North Africa (MENA) Industrial Gas Conference later this year.

To be held from 3rd – 5th December (2013) at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai (UAE), the conference builds on three hugely successful previous conferences in the Middle East and will explore the current and future dynamics in this burgeoning region of industrial gas business – and potential.

For more information contact gasworld Conferences and Events Manager, Becky Palmer, at becky.palmer@gasworld.com

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For now, however, the mood is buoyant as the curtain comes down on a pioneering and truly progressive first-ever Global Helium Summit.

At the start of this live feed, it states that helium is hot topic, that is has never been in the spotlight more than it is today – this Summit has both proved and reinforced that.

The fact that attendees from more than 15 countries have gathered here today demonstrates the global scale of the supply and availability challenges in this market. Seldom are such luminaries all together in one room, for one cause – let alone sharing the same stage.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our coverage of this event as much as we have enjoyed hosting and participating in it. Thanks for reading.