Gasworld can reveal that Russia could soon emerge as a key player in the rapidly depleting helium market after plans were unveiled to annually produce up to 220mcm of the gas from 2018.

Speaking exclusively at the historic gasworld South East Asia conference, in Singapore. Gazprom’s Nikita Pozdnyakov made an announcement that could answer the world’s helium shortage.

The international issues surrounding helium shortages, which continue to affect businesses around the globe, could soon be a forgotten memory after a spokesman from a Russian company highlighted plans to fill the void left by the US’s plans to sell-off all of the country’s reserves to repay a $1.3 billion debt to the US Treasurey – which has been ordered by US law.

The current sales structure distorts the private helium market and is creating uncertainty for industrial, feral, medical and scientific users of the gas.

Senators are trying to change the law that stipulates the country’s helium stocks should be sold, to generate stability in the market – for the benefit of all that rely on using the gas.

However, these proposed changes can take many years to become law – or could even fail to be made law.

Seizing the opportunity for a new business, Pozdnyakov explained Russia has plans to tap into natural stocks and fill the void that will be left by the US and become the world’s largest helium producer.

Speaking at the conference, he said, “The US production of helium is slightly declining and US stocks will go soon, around the year 2018. The reserves will be sold and, because of this, the world’s supply of helium will reduce by 30%.”

“A significant supply shortage is expected as there are no new helium projects in the planning stage after the year 2016.”

“Gazprom’s helium ambitions are to fill the shortage that we are fearing in the future.”

Pozdnyakov explained Russia’s mission is called the “East Siberian Gas Program” as there are large underground reserves of helium, in Kovykta and Chayanda, which have not been developed – but will be very soon.

“The great thing about this is that helium production from both fields will be up to 220mcm per year – which is more than the world’s current demands,” Pozdnyakov stated, adding “we could create a helium reserve for the excess. Although we predicted the global helium requirement will be 300 to 450mcm a year in 2030.”

Pozdnyakov, who is Gazprom’s Head of Marketing and Business Development Division, did acknowledge that the plans are not without complications.

He said, “The challenges are there can be remote regions in the Siberian area with no infrastructure and very, very, cold weather. The closest seaport is 4,000km away.”

“Plans include the extraction plant being located in the east of Russia, near the border with China.”

“We also plan to have a 1,800km reverse pipeline installed to transport the gas from area to area – which would become the world’s longest pipeline as well.”

“There are large logistic constraints but we have the support of the Russian government and it will be ready by 2018.”