Says John Raquet, Spiritus Consulting

Spiritus Consulting's John Raquet, Dubai, 2011.

The Middle East will have a huge role to play in the worldwide helium market in the next 20 years, according to Spiritus Consulting’s John Raquet.

But that role will be from a supply perspective, and not as a large consumer of the gas that’s in such a precarious supply-demand situation.

Raquet was fielding questions as part of an Executive Panel Session at the Middle East Industrial Gas Conference 2011 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Asked whether he felt the Middle East region would grow its demand for helium in the future, Raquet – with more than 25 years experience in the gases business and in his position as an independent industrial gas conference – explained, “First of all, the biggest demand for helium worldwide is in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) applications, not in servicing these but in cooling them down.”

“…for the Middle East it will be more a role as a supplier. The Middle East will be a very big supplier of helium for the worldwide market for the next 20 years – but from a demand point of view it’s going to be relatively low.”

John Raquet

“A second major user of helium is in the electronics industry. From a Middle East point of view,” he continued, “you don’t have a lot of electronics industry and you don’t have a lot of MRI manufacturing, so there are two huge applications that do not exist here. So in my view, there is never going to be a lot of helium consumption here.”

Raquet expressed the belief that for the Middle East, the region would be far more important as a supplier to the global market than as a drain on it. With a new plant start-up in Qatar expected in the next two years and the undoubted hydrocarbon reserves the region has, it’s clear that this geography can provide a significant injection of helium production into the market, he noted.

“From a demand point of view, yes there’s going to be medical helium for MRI machines and yes there’s going to be helium for diving, which is of course a big application in this region - so there will be a continuing demand for helium.”

“But for the Middle East it will be more a role as a supplier. The Middle East will be a very big supplier of helium for the worldwide market for the next 20 years – but from a demand point of view it’s going to be relatively low,” he concluded.