Draft legislation has recently been unveiled that could safeguard the future management of the US Federal Helium Reserve and sidestep the feared ‘Helium Cliff’.
With no new legislation currently in place for the Reserve and the possibility that funding for the US Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) helium program will run out at the end of 2013’s third quarter, there are fears for the future of the BLM Pipeline and Storage System.
The Federal Helium Reserve accounts for a considerable share of global supply and, speaking at the recent gasworld North American Industrial Gas Conference 2012, Matheson’s Phil Kornbluth recently described the Helium Cliff that’s approaching.
He explained, “The exact date of the Helium Cliff is October 7th 2013; if there is no new legislation, then this 2.1 BCF supply of crude helium feedgas will go off the market and make this current shortage look like a mini shortage.”
“Up to 4 BCF/year of capacity linked to the BLM Pipeline could be at risk.”
Just days after the conference and before the New Year began, however, the House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings unveiled a discussion draft of the Responsible Helium and Administration Act.
If passed, the act would potentially clear up fears over the future management of the Reserve in Amarillo, Texas – and avoid any impending Helium Cliff. The proposed legislation is described as ‘a bill to prevent an impending helium shortage and protect thousands of Americans jobs by implementing a common sense plan to sell helium from the Federal Helium Reserve in a responsible manner’.
The new legislation would keep the Reserve open until nearly all the stored helium supply is sold, while also implementing free-market reforms to promote more competition and a better return for taxpayers.
Chairman Hastings explained in a statement, “This bill is an opportunity for both sides of the aisle to come together and fix a problem that will have serious impacts on American jobs and the economy.”
“Helium is no longer just about party balloons and has become a key driver in our high-tech economy. The current federal helium program is outdated and needs to better reflect the current supply and demands for helium. Yet Congress must do more than just keep the Reserve open and maintain the status quo.”
Hastings continued, “The federal government must not flood the markets with helium at rock bottom prices to only a select few companies. Reforms are necessary to inject competition and obtain a more accurate price for helium that gets a fair return for taxpayers.”