As a longtime participant in the Federal Helium Program, Praxair has called on Congress to extend funding to the critical, revenue-positive program through Fiscal Year 2014.
Funding for the Federal Helium Program run by the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is set to expire on October 7, 2013, which will force the suspension of operations at the Federal Helium Reserve and restrict market access to nearly 30% of the world’s helium supply.
Authorities at the BLM issued notification to helium refiners and others who have contracts related to the reserve, including Praxair, that without an appropriation by the end of September 2013, they will begin the process of shutting down reserve operations. The BLM estimates that a shuttered Federal Helium Reserve will cost the American taxpayer as much as $500,000 per day in lost revenue and incurred expense, which is a tiny fraction of the impact it will have on the US and global economies.
“The continued operation of the Federal Helium Reserve has substantial implications for the global helium market and for the medical, electronics and automotive industries whose applications such as MRIs, fiber optics and airbags depend on a reliable supply of helium,” said Dr. Amer Akhras, general manager, Helium and Rare Gases, Praxair, Inc.
Praxair has actively worked with longtime partners at the BLM and with Congress to preempt any potential shutdown. While supportive of efforts taken by the House and the Senate to identify efficient and appropriate opportunities to continue the program, the significant differences in their approaches make a legislative solution unlikely before the BLM’s deadline at the end of September.
“An appropriation is now an absolute necessity in order to avoid global market disruption, assure continued access to helium, and ensure that the current, revenue-positive program continues to meet American industry and taxpayer needs,” continued Akhras.
Praxair’s strong commitment to the development of a reliable helium supply chain is demonstrated by its investments of approximately $500m in plants and equipment required to access, process, refine, and deliver to market helium sourced from the Federal Reserve operated by the BLM. Additionally, Praxair owns helium currently held in the Reserve and has contracts with the Federal government for storage in the Reserve through Fiscal Year 2015.