Linde North America has praised the US Senate for passing legislation to reauthorise the Federal government’s helium program, which is the source of 40% of the nation’s helium.

On Thursday afternoon, the Senate voted by a large bipartisan majority, 97-2, to approve the extension of the helium program.

Linde’s global head of Bulk, Helium and Rare Gases, Joe Horn, said the legislation will help stabilise helium markets and prevent disruptions in helium supply.

“A final passage of this legislation is necessary or the Federal Helium Reserve, operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), will be forced to cease operations by October 7, 2013,” Horn said.

Helium is critical to the manufacture of semiconductors, LCD screens, fiber optic cable and MRI machines. Linde refines helium that comes from the Federal Helium Reserve and provides it to high-tech manufacturers and government agencies.

“I congratulate the Senators who voted for this legislation,” Horn said. “Continuation of the program 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 healthcare and high-tech industries depend on.”

The legislation authorises BLM to gradually phase in an auction process for the sale of federal helium and institute a number of other reforms to the long-running program. Nick Haines, Linde’s head of Helium Source Development, said, “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 bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. Final passage before October 1 is considered essential to prevent a temporary shutdown of the BLM reserve, which would cause economic disruptions.

But, despite the measures being praised by Linde, gasworld has heard of potential disruptions to the supply of helium from plants – in scheduled downtime for maintenance, or plants that are operating under 50%.

So the importance of getting helium supply in order before the October 7th deadline is ever more important.

Linde North America is a member of The Linde Group, a world-leading gases and engineering company with around 62,000 employees in more than 100 countries worldwide. In the 2012 financial year, Linde generated revenue of €15.280bn ($19.9bn). The strategy of the group is geared towards long-term profitable growth and focuses on the expansion of its international business with forward-looking products and services. Linde acts responsibly towards its shareholders, business partners, employees, society and the environment – in every one of its business areas, regions and locations across the globe. The company is committed to technologies and products that unite the goals of customer value and sustainable development.